MIAMI (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.
Dolores Biamonte, 57, died Thursday night, according to a statement from the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Hollywood police are treating all 12 deaths from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as part of a criminal investigation, spokeswoman Miranda Grossman said in a statement.
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 degrees Fahrenheit (48 Celsius).
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, Grossman said.
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.
The dead range in age from 57 to 99. No one has been charged.
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 at the Golden Age Nursing Home in Fitchville, Ohio, on the same day President John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and the deaths of 31 patients in a Marietta, Ohio, convalescent home in 1970.