HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Erika Navarro’s grandfather, Miguel Antonio Franco, 93, was one of the first 11 patients who died after the air conditioning went out at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after Hurricane Irma.
This week tragedy hit this family again.
Navarro's 90-year-old grandmother, Cecilia Franco, who was also a patient at the nursing home, died on Monday. Her death, and the death of Francesca Andrade, 95, brought the death count to 14.
"I just close my eyes and I see my grandfather's face and my grandmother always caressing my hair," Navarro said. "That's what we used to do. I used to lay on her lap and we used to do that."
The Franco family is now amending their initial wrongful-death lawsuit against the facility to add Cecilia Franco.
"This, sadly, may not be the last person who dies as a result of the terrible negligence that took place at that nursing home," family attorney Curtis Minor said.
According to the lawsuit, the facility failed to secure "reliable and effective air-conditioning systems to operate in the event of an inevitable and foreseeable power outage," leaving the elderly residents to suffer for days "in extreme heat and deplorable conditions."
The Agency for Health Care Administration has suspended the license of the facility and 245 employees have since been laid off.
According to the suspension order, residents at the facility had body temperatures of more than 100 degrees when they arrived at Memorial Regional Hospital, across the street from the nursing home.
Justin Senior, secretary for the state agency, wrote in the order that the facility also made many "late entries" into patients' medical records, claiming that the entries were made "under dubious circumstances" hours after a nurse visited the patients.
Nursing home administrator Jorge Carballo blamed the incident on "a prolonged power failure to the transformer which powered the facility's air-conditioning system as a result of the hurricane."
The patients' causes of death have not been released because of an ongoing criminal investigation.