An Italian woman died and her grandson was in critical condition after an oxygen chamber explosion in Broward County.
The cause of Friday’s explosion at the Ocean Hyperbaric Oxygen Neurologic Center is under investigation, officials said. Three of the hyperbaric chambers were taken as evidence and will be looked over by experts, said Broward Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mike Jachles.
The victims were identified by the Sheriff’s Office today as Vincenza Pesce and Franchesco Martinizi, both of Italy.
Pesce’s death was the first from an oxygen chamber explosion in the United States, industry officials said.
”These treatments have been around for 50 years, and it’s a very safe treatment if done correctly,” said Hope Fine, who owns and operates a Deerfield Beach hyperbaric clinic called the South Florida Center for H.O.P.E..
Oxygen chambers, also called hyperbaric chambers, are commonly used to treat diving injuries and various other illnesses and wounds.
Pesce and Martinizi were flown to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s burn unit Friday. They both had serious burns over 90 percent of their bodies. Family from Italy have traveled to South Florida to visit them, Jachles said.
There are about a half-dozen free-standing hyperbaric clinics in South Florida, said Shannon Kenitz, director of the Hacienda Heights, Calif.-based International Hyperbarics Association, which issues safety guidelines for clinics. About four of South Florida’s hyperbaric clinics are approved by the IHA, Kenitz said; the center where the explosion occurred is not among them.
Unless a clinic is approved as a Medicare provider, there is no state regulation of the centers, Fine said.
The chambers used at the clinic appeared to be older, Jachles said. Investigators do not yet know if any charges will be filed.
Individual clinics are required to keep track of maintenance records, Fine said. She said she urges patients seeking treatment to request the clinic’s maintenance records for the chambers. The manufacturer of her equipment preforms once-a-year maintenance, Fine said.
”The particular chamber that they showed on the news they haven’t made in 30 years,” she said.
The center was founded in 1972 by Dr. Richard Neubauer, who died in 2007. Corporate records list his widow, Winnie, 83, of Pompano Beach, as its current manager. She could not be reached for comment.