Feds Probe Whether Pesticide Poisoned Delaware Family on Virgin Islands Vacation

The Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into the company that may have sprayed a potentially lethal pesticide, poisoning a Delaware family of four while they vacationed in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Steve Esmond and his two teenage sons remain hospitalized in Philadelphia after suddenly falling ill March 20 in Cruz Bay, St. John. Esmond's wife, Dr. Theresa Devine, has been was released and is now recovering.

"Stephen Esmond is improving and stable," a family spokesperson said. "The minor boys remain in critical condition. They are confident in their medical professionals and are hopeful for a full recovery." 

The Esmond family had stayed in a luxury villa that was located directly above a property that was recently sprayed for bugs, according to the rental agency Sea Glass Vacations. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a March news release that the presence of the highly toxic chemical methyl bromide may have sickened the family.

Now, the Justice Department is looking into whether a branch of Terminix, the company responsible for the fumigation, used the toxin, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. 

The use of the pesticide, which can cause damage to the central nervous system and respiratory system, is illegal indoors in both the U.S. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“No one in this day and age should be using methyl bromide indoors,” Judith Enck, EPA regional administrator, told NBC's "Today" show.

Terminix expressed its concern for the sickened family and vowed to cooperate with the government in the investigation. 

“First and foremost, the family is in our thoughts and prayers,” a Terminix spokesperson said in a statement. “We're cooperating with authorities in their investigation, and we're conducting our own thorough internal investigation.”

Final test results in the investigation are expected next week.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the family was vacationing in St. Martin. It was in St. John.

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