Lance Bark and George Daviglus of Fort Lauderdale, Florida were arrested on Wednesday in connection to the deaths of Francesco Martinisi and Vincenza Pesce three years ago, according to news reports. Bark and Daviglus were charged with aggravated manslaughter and manslaughter and booked into Broward County Jail. It is not clear whether either defendant has qualified for bail bond. Jail records indicate that Bark was held overnight on Wednesday.
The arrest report indicates that Bark and Daviglus were apprehended after a three-year investigation into the deaths of Francesco Martinisi, 4, and Vincenza Pesce, 62. The pair, both Italian nationals, had come to Fort Lauderdale so that Martinisi could undergo a cutting-edge cerebral palsy treatment that was outlawed in Italy, according to reports.
The treatment involves being incased in a hyperbaric chamber, which is a pressurized chamber filled with oxygen. While hyperbaric chamber treatments have been deemed effective for conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning by the general scientific community, its merits as a treatment for cerebral palsy are still being researched, sources indicate. The pressurized oxygen makes hyperbaric chambers particularly susceptible to fires, which can start from as small a trigger as static electricity.
The allegations against Mr. Bark and Dr. Daviglus emerged after a hyperbaric chamber at Ocean Hyperbaric Center in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea caught fire while Martinisi was undergoing a treatment in May 2009. Pesce was also in the chamber, accompanying Martisini. Dr. Daviglus was Ocean Hyperbaric Center’s medical director, while Mr. Bark was a technician and safety director there. An investigation by the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the State Fire Marshall’s office reportedly found numerous problems with the condition of the chamber and the protocol associated with the treatment itself.
The hyperbaric chamber allegedly used for the treatment was manufactured I 1967. It underwent a refurbishment in 1984, according to the report. The investigation noted that the chambers contained dust and had burned and exposed wiring. Others, according to the report, had broken chamber control lights and were connected to a power source via extension cords that were taped together. Investigators reportedly found a letter written in 2008 detailing these issues, which indicated that the center staff were aware of the problems. The report does not mention whether a repair or replacement were scheduled.
The report further indicated that the defendants, who the report cites as responsible for the poor condition of the chambers, did not have the chambers inspected annually as required. Investigators also alleged that the defendants did not have the patients wear proper attire during the treatment or supervise the patients during treatment, and that once the fire broke out inside the chamber, the defendants did not know how to decompress the chamber. Citing “gross negligence,” the affidavit also states that the patients were not wearing grounding bracelets as required. Grounding bracelets are a precaution against static electricity in hyperbaric chambers.
Sources indicate that the fire burned for two minutes before technicians were able to open the chamber and extinguish it. Investigators reportedly believe that the fire was ignited by static electricity inside of the chamber and that staff members were not present in the hyperbaric chamber room when the fire broke out, leading to more time passing before the chamber could be opened.