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February 17, 2012

New Details Emerge In KESMARC Hyperbaric Chamber Explosion

Funeral services were held Friday, Feb. 17, for Erica Marshall, 28, the KESMARC Florida employee killed when the hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber at the rehabilitation facility exploded on Feb. 10 in Ocala, Fla. A service was held in Ocala, but Marshall will be interred in Hawthorne, New York.

Marshall, who grew up in New Jersey, got a degree in Equine Sciences from Hartpury College in England. During her time there, she met her husband, Kieran Marshall; they married in November 2011.

Sorcha Moneley, who was injured in the explosion, was listed as in fair condition after surgery at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Fla. Moneley was visiting the KESMARC Florida facility from London, England, in order to observe the hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments in the chamber.

Jacqueline Mars’ horse, the homebred Landmark’s Legendary Affaire, was in the chamber at the time of the explosion and was also killed in the blast.

On Feb. 16, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office released the final report about the incident, indicating that they had deemed Marshall’s death as accidental. Marion County investigator Rhonda Stroup interviewed both Moneley and KESMARC Florida manager Leonora Byrne for the report.

Byrne informed Stroup that Marshall was assigned to run the chamber and had done so for two years. Byrne also informed Stroup that she was unaware of any certification required to run the hyperbaric chamber, but that Marshall had undergone training by the chamber’s manufacturer, Equine Oxygen Therapy, a company based in Lexington, Ky.

Byrne testified that the horse in the chamber was not sedated, but Moneley informed Stroup that the horse was sedated before treatment.

Landmark’s Legendary Affaire entered the hyperbaric chamber wearing four steel shoes. “Moneley went on to explain that the horse’s feet… were not taped or covered when he was put into the chamber. She stated that the inside of the chamber is lined with a protective coating making it unnecessary to take [off] or cover the horse’s shoes,” the report read.

Marshall and Moneley were standing at the control panel of the chamber, which is immediately adjacent to the chamber, watching the horse in the chamber via video monitor and manning the chamber controls. Moneley stated that the horse was in the chamber at pressure for about 22 minutes, and that the horse seemed unsettled, but Moneley and Marshall had judged that there was no problem. But the horse kicked out, and dislodged a lid at the rear of the chamber, exposing raw metal to the inside of the chamber.

Moneley said that the horse continued to kick, causing sparks. “She advised that she and Erica Marshall observed a massive spark inside the chamber and then flames,” the report read. According to the report, Moneley then left the control panel to call the fire department. She stated that Marshall began the process to bring the chamber to normal pressure, and when she looked back as she left, Marshall was staring at the monitor and crying.

When Moneley was 20 feet from the room housing the chamber, she heard a small explosion, which was immediately followed by a second, larger explosion that knocked her down.

Moneley also told investigators that she was aware that some operational problems had been noticed in the hyperbaric chamber at KESMARC Florida; some valves were leaking, according to her testimony. “She stated that Leonora Byrne had contacted [the chamber manufacturer] requesting that they send an engineer to look at the chamber,” the report read.

“Ms. Byrne had contacted the Kentucky facility on more than one occasion and was told that they would send someone when they could and for the time being the chamber could be manually operated to sustain the desired pressure. Ms. Moneley stated that she was aware of some heated emails and arguments between Ms. Byrne and the Kentucky facility concerning the hyperbaric chamber," the report continued.

The Florida Fire Marshal and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration continue to investigate the accident. According to local news reports, all horses have been evacuated from the facility and operations have ceased. KESMARC Florida owner, Robert Miller of Main Street Management Services, declined to comment about the incident to a reporter for the Ocala Star-Banner.

Read more about hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

 
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