FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/AP) – Three people charged in connection to the deaths of 12 residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, who died in sweltering hear after Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning, appeared in bond court Tuesday morning.
Jorge Carballo, a former administrator at the nursing home, is charged with 12 counts of manslaughter. Bond was set at $7,500 for each count.
During the hearing, Carballo’s attorney David Frankel asked for a bond reduction.
“Mr. Carballo and his wife also take care of his elderly parents. They have that connection, in fact, Mrs. Carballo’s father was in the facility at the time that this happened. So obviously they are very dedicated to their parents and there are just very strong community ties and there’s no risk of flight,” he said.
Sergo Colin, who was the head nurse on duty during the storm, was also charged with 12 counts of manslaughter. His bond was also set at $7,400 per count.
Althia Meggie, a nurse, has been charged with two count manslaughter and two counts of tampering with evidence. Her bond was set at $17 thousand.
All three surrendered themselves to Hollywood police on Monday.
Another nurse, Tamika Miller, appeared in court Monday. She was arrested over the weekend in Miami-Dade. She’s charged with 6 counts of aggravated manslaughter and 3 counts of tampering with evidence. The judge gave Hollywood police 15 days to come and get her.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, Hollywood police said additional arrests are expected in the case.
“This was a terrible tragedy that never should have happened,” said Hollywood Police Chief Chris O’Brien.
The agency said it was one of the most extensive investigations ever done, saying it took three weeks just to process the crime scene at the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills where they collected more than 1,000 pieces of evidence. They said they interviewed more than 500 people in the case over the past two years.
“The four individuals now facing criminal charges failed to take the actions needed to protect their patients and render aid at a time when they needed it the most” said O’Brien.
Family members of those who died said after the news conference that justice was at hand.
“The process is beginning, I’m very happy,” said one woman as she got into her car.
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.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)