The head of a Delaware middle school as well as his wife and two children were hospitalized after they were possibly sickened by pesticide during a vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Stephen Esmond, the headmaster of Tatnall’s Middle School in Wilmington, Delaware as well as his wife Dr. Theresa Devine and their two teen sons were staying at the Sirenusa Condominium Resort in Cruz Bay, St. John Friday when they suddenly became ill. They were later taken to the hospital. A family spokesman told Delaware Online that everyone except for Devine is in critical condition.
Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are investigating whether the family was sickened by a pesticide called methyl bromide. EPA officials say the pesticide may have been used to fumigate a room at the resort back on March 18.
The use of methyl bromide is restricted in the United States because of its acute toxicity, according to the EPA. The pesticide is not authorized for use in buildings and only certified applicators are allowed to be used in certain agricultural settings.
Exposure to methyl bromide can cause damage to the central nervous system and respiratory system.
“Pesticides can be very toxic and it is critically important that they be applied properly and used only as approved by EPA,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “Protecting people’s health in the U.S. Virgin Islands is of paramount importance. The EPA is actively working to determine how this happened and will make sure steps are taken to prevent this from happening to others at these vacation apartments or elsewhere.”
Both the EPA and the U.S. Virgin Islands government are investigating the incident.
Tatnall is a college preparatory school for students ages 3 through grade 12 Charlie Tierney, the head of School at Tatnall, released a statement on Esmond and his family.
“The Tatnall School family is sending its well-wishes and love to the Esmonds,” Tierney wrote. “We will continue to offer our prayers and positive, healing thoughts and support them in any way we can.”