Florida nursing home reports 12th death in wake of Hurricane Irma

A 12th death has been reported from a Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning during Hurricane Irma.

Hollywood Police treating deaths at Hollywood Hills nursing home part of criminal investigation

A woman is transported from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills on Sept. 13 as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood, Fla. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

A 12th patient has died after being taken from an overheated Florida nursing home that lost its air conditioning during Hurricane Irma, officials confirmed on Friday.

The Broward County medical examiner's office confirmed the death of Dolores Biamonte, 57.

Officials said she died Thursday night.

Hollywood police spokesperson Miranda Grossman says her department is treating all deaths from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as part its criminal investigation. Investigators want to know why the patients died after the storm even though a fully functioning hospital sits just across the street from the nursing home. So far no charges have been laid. 

Vendetta Craig, who had left her 87-year-old mother Edna Jefferson in the care of the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, speaks during a press conference. A criminal investigation by local agencies continued into how the rehab center allowed patients to stay without a working air condition system during Hurricane Irma's passage through South Florida on Sept. 14, 2017. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/Associated Press)

Eight patients died Sept. 13, three days after the storm knocked out the nursing home's air conditioning. Others died in the following days. Some who died had body temperatures as high as 109.9 F (48 C). The dead range in age from 57 to 99.

Since the storm, Gov. Rick Scott gave nursing homes and assisted living facilities 60 days to comply with new rules that require them to have generators capable of providing backup power for four days. The home has been shut down.

Biamonte's niece, Roberta Biamonte of Fort Lauderdale, told the Sun Sentinel she spent time with her aunt and said her goodbyes late Thursday, just before the woman died.

"It's sad, but she's not suffering anymore," Roberta Biamonte said. "She's missed deeply."

She said her aunt suffered from a lifelong disease that affected her vision and ability to walk. She had been at the Hollywood facility for more than three years and had been in hospice care since the nursing home evacuation.

Messages left on the sidewalk of the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills nursing home a day after eight people died and a criminal investigation by local agencies continued. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/Associated Press)

Not the first time

The death toll, while large, is exceeded by some other deadly incidents at nursing homes in the U.S.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, 34 elderly patients drowned in floodwaters after the owners of the St. Rita's nursing home failed to heed warning to evacuate the facility. Husband and wife owners Salvador and Mable Mangano were acquitted in 2007 on charges of negligent homicide and cruelty.

Other deadly nursing home incidents in the United States include the deaths of 63 patients due to a fire at the Golden Age Nursing Home in Fitchville, Ohio, on the same day President John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and the loss of 31 patients to a fire in a Marietta, Ohio, convalescent home in 1970.