Woman identified in fatal Marion County hyperbaric chamber explosion

2nd woman in serious condition at Shands, officials say


OCALA, Fla. – A woman and a horse were killed and another woman was injured Friday in an explosion at a Marion County equine rehabilitation center.

Deputies said Erica Marshall, 28, died in the explosion. Sorcha Moneley, 33, was seriously injured and a horse was also killed when a hyperbaric chamber exploded around 9:30 a.m. at Kesmarc Florida at 15530 West County Road 326.

Fire rescue officials said the horse started kicking while it was inside the chamber and the workers went to turn the chamber off when the explosion occurred.

Rhonda Stroup, a Marion sheriff detective, said the horse kicked off a protective shield inside of the oxygen-filled chamber and as the steel shoe as struck the side of chamber, it caused a spark and ignited instantly.

Stroup described it as a "horribly huge explosion," and added that there was nothing the women could do because it happened so fast.

The horse owner lives in Virginia and the animal was spending the winter in Florida.

Stroup said the horse was put into chamber to be treated for a condition called EPM. The horse had been in the chamber approximately four times and had never had any problems, so they didn't give the horse a tranquilizer.

Marshall had been running the chamber for two years as part of her daily job, officials said. Stroup said Marshall had treated two to six horses every day.

Stroup said Moneley witnessed the horse beginning to kick and relayed what happened to paramedics as she was being treated.

Horses are typically treated in a hyperbaric chamber after a vet prescribes it, Stroup said. It's not clear if the horse was prescribed treatment. Hyperbaric chambers are designed to push highly pressurized, pure oxygen into tissue to speed up recovery times for certain injuries.

Deputies said Marshall died at the scene. Her husband said she died doing what she loved.

On Facebook, the victim's friends offered support for her husband.

Moneley was airlifted to Shands with serious injuries and underwent surgery.

Local 6 helicopter Sky 6 showed other horses being loaded into trailers. Officials said around 30 horses were at the rehabilitation center when the explosion occurred. The building has been deemed unsafe and horses are being evacuated.

Debris from the explosion could also be seen scattered across the property.

Authorities are investigating the explosion. Homicide detectives said they are interviewing another facility in Marion County that uses a hyperbaric chamber to see how they operate.

Stroup said the homicide unit isn't aware if there are any official rules or regulations on how to run a hyperbaric chamber.

The medical examiner arrived on scene Friday afternoon. OSHA was also on scene.

IMAGES: Fatal explosion

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