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Warrants issued for nursing home workers allegedly linked to patient deaths during Hurricane Irma

911 calls released
911 calls from Florida nursing home released 01:51

Arrest warrants have been issued against four employees of the Hollywood Hills nursing home in Florida, CBS Miami reports. The workers have been accused of playing a role in the deaths of a dozen residents after Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning for the facility.

The employees, including the nursing home's administrator, Jorge Carballo, and the head nurse on duty during the storm, Sergo Colin, are expected to surrender Monday morning. Carballo and Colin could face twelve counts of manslaughter, according to their attorneys.

Two other employees, both nurses, are expected to face less serious charges.

"We believe that when the evidence comes out it will show that the staff at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills was dedicated to their roles as caretakers and did everything, they could under the emergency disaster circumstances after the hurricane," lead defense attorney David Frankel told CBS Miami.

The imminent arrest of nursing home workers was first reported by The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Monday's anticipated arrests would be the culmination of a criminal investigation into the nursing home that has been underway since the deaths were first reported nearly two years ago.

Hurricane Irma hit South Florida Sunday September 10, 2017 and the nursing home lost some power around 3 p.m. The 152-bed facility has two transformers supplying power to the nursing home. One transformer handled life and safety systems while the second supported the air conditioning system. The storm only knocked out power to the air conditioning system.

On September 10, 2017, at 3:49 p.m, administrators contacted Florida Power and Light with an emergency request to restore power. According to nursing home officials, FPL said they would have crews dispatched the next morning. (It was later uncovered that the nursing home was not on FPL's high priority list that would have assured them a faster response.)

By the evening of September 11, after repeated calls to FPL, nursing home officials dialed the cellphone number provided by then-Governor Rick Scott in a series of emergency meetings before the storm. It went straight to voicemail. Three additional calls to Scott's cellphone were placed on September 12.

The governor's office says the calls were returned by someone from the state Department of Health and that the nursing home was told that if they had anyone in distress, they should call 911 for help.

The nursing home also spoke to the emergency operations center in Tallahassee, which notified the nursing home that their FPL repair order would be "escalated."

Between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Wednesday September 13, 2017, patients at the nursing suffered myriad health issues. State officials say temperatures inside the nursing home were extremely high and that some of the dead registered body temperatures in excess of 109 degrees.

The nursing home had emergency air conditioning units, but the exhaust vents for the AC units on the first floor of the nursing home were mistakenly placed above the ceiling tiles, which resulted in hot air being blown toward the second floor where most of the deaths occurred.

Four residents died inside the nursing home in the early morning hours of Wednesday September 13 — three days after Hurricane Irma hit. Another four residents died shortly after the nursing home was evacuated. And the rest died in the days and weeks that followed. The Broward Medical Examiner ruled the deaths as homicides.

After the storm, the state revoked the nursing home's license. Following a lengthy hearing last year, an administrative law judge agreed with the state's decision to revoke the license. The nursing home is appealing that decision as well as defending itself against numerous civil lawsuits.

The arrests in Hollywood is reminiscent of a similar case in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. In 2005, 35 residents of St. Rita's Nursing Home in St Bernard Parrish drowned when the flood waters from the storm consumed the nursing home.

The owners of the nursing home, Sal and Mabel Mangano, were charged with 35 counts of homicide. Two years later they were acquitted.

Jim Cobb represented the Manganos in their criminal trial. Cobb is now working on behalf of Hollywood Hills and is expected to represent the home's administrator in the upcoming case in Florida.

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