Irma claims dozens of lives across Caribbean, United States
By The Associated Press
Sep. 14, 2017
As Irma's misery grows in scope and scale, so does its death toll. The most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic eventually claimed dozens of lives as it tore up the Caribbean and the southeastern United States. Still more are dying in its aftermath.
The victims include eight residents of a sweltering Florida nursing home. Others have died in storm-related traffic accidents, fallen from ladders or been poisoned by generators running inside homes. Still others have drowned, been electrocuted, crushed by tree limbs and crumbling buildings or suffered fatal injuries while cleaning up debris.
Here are brief portraits of some of Irma's victims:
Gail Nova, 71, Hollywood
She was one of eight people who died Wednesday after the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, lost air conditioning due to the storm. Her ex-husband Kenneth Nova, 73, said the family is devastated.
"Gail was a real spirit. She's a good lady," Nova said from his home in Winter Haven, Florida.
She had only one child, the couple's son Jeffrey, and a 17-year-old granddaughter.
A former certified nursing assistant at the home, Natasha Johnson, said Nova "was always sweet ... I'm from the islands and she used to love listening to island music. She had great energy."
Bobby Owens, 84, Hollywood
He was another of the eight residents of the Rehabilitation Center who died Wednesday after conditions became dangerously hot.
His daughter, Glendale, said she last visited her father Monday, "and he was fine."
She said he'd lived there for more than 10 years.
Elvin Milian, 26, Hialeah
Emergency responders from Miami-Dade County found the man ill Wednesday at his home, where a generator was running.
The county medical examiner is awaiting toxicology results before ruling on the cause of death, but authorities say carbon monoxide poisoning likely killed him.
Jan Lebron Diaz, 13
Kiara Lebron Diaz, 16
Desiree Diaz Molina, 34, Orlando
Orange County sheriff's deputies on Tuesday afternoon found the teens and woman dead, and four others were taken to a hospital for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning.
A portable generator had been running inside the home.
Deputies said in a news release that those who died and were sickened appear to belong to the same family.
Terryn Wilson, 7, Lakeland
Terryn died Wednesday from carbon-monoxide intoxication at her home, where a generator was running inside after Hurricane Irma, a medical examiner said.
Polk County sheriff's officials said her mother, Shashunda Wilson, called 911, saying she woke up feeling dizzy and her daughter appeared to be dead. They had been sleeping in the bedroom with a fan blowing.
Rescue workers found the mother sitting outside. She was taken to a Miami hospital after telling rescuers the generator was still running in the living room. They had to open windows to let the deadly gas out before retrieving the girl's body.
The mother "told detectives that she recently obtained a generator due to having lost power during Hurricane Irma, and that this was the first time she had used one, and she was not aware that it could not be in the home," the sheriff's statement said.
Freddie Bryant, 68, Largo
Bryant, preparing to evacuate his mobile home because of the approaching hurricane, died after falling and striking his head, according to the medical examiner's office.
Bill Pellan, director of investigations for the office that serves Pinellas and Pasco counties, said Bryant died Friday at a St. Petersburg hospital, a day after the accident outside his home.
Pellan said Bryant fell as he and his wife packed their car. He died as a result of complications from blunt head trauma.
The death preceded the storm but came after Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Sept. 4.
Mart Daniels, 69, Port Richey
Daniels, who feared storm-related flooding and fled his home, died Sunday night after crashing his vehicle into a tree, according to the medical examiner's office.
Bill Pellan, director of investigations for the office that serves Pasco and Pinellas counties, said Daniels crashed nearby and died at the scene. The autopsy ruled the death was accidental, caused by blunt trauma.
Vincent Forest, 55, Lake Placid
Forest fell off a ladder Saturday as he was preparing his home for Hurricane Irma. He was pronounced dead the next day at a Tampa hospital. His autopsy concluded the cause was blunt impact to his head, including skull fractures, brain bruising and internal bleeding, according to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's office.
Forest was married and worked for the Glade and Grove Supply Co. agricultural dealership.
David Boatswain, 65, Miami
Boatswain died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator running inside his home.
A neighbor discovered Boatswain in his home Monday morning after he didn't answer his phone, Miami-Dade Police Officer Robin Pinkard said Tuesday. Emergency responders said the home tested positive for carbon monoxide, and the medical examiner confirmed Thursday he had died from "carbon monoxide toxicity.'
"Remember, we've always been saying, when you're operating a generator, make sure you run it in an open space, not an enclosed space," Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in announcing Boatswain's death. "Unfortunately, in this case, the generator was run inside."
Joseph Ossman, 53, Sebring
Julie Bridges, 42, Wauchula
Ossman, a sergeant with the Hardee Correctional Institute, was headed to work Sunday morning and Bridges, a Hardee County sheriff's deputy, was going home after the night shift when their vehicles collided head-on, according to a Florida Highway Patrol release.
Ossman's car ended up on a grass shoulder, while Bridges' patrol car came to a rest in a nearby intersection. It wasn't immediately clear which vehicle crossed into the oncoming lane.
Lt. Gregory Bueno confirmed the area was affected by rain and other hurricane-related conditions at the time of the crash, but its official cause remains under investigation.
Brian Buwalda, 51, Winter Park
Buwalda died Monday after apparently being electrocuted by a downed power line, police said.
Winter Park officers responded to reports of a man lying in the roadway and determined Buwalda was dead at the scene. A medical examiner will determine an official cause of death, but police say it appears to be accidental.
Heidi Zehner, 50, Orlando
Zehner was driving on a state highway near Orlando on Sunday evening, when she lost control and crashed.
Her SUV struck a guardrail. The cause of death was under investigation.
The accident came a couple hours after Irma made landfall 200 miles (320 kilometers) to the south on Marco Island.
Wilfredo Hernandez, 55, Tampa
Hernandez died when the chain saw he was using to clear trees in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma became entangled in a branch, causing it to kick up and cut his carotid artery.
Hillsborough County Sheriff's spokeswoman Cristal Nunez said in a news release that Hernandez was clearing trees in Tampa on Monday afternoon when the accident occurred.
Nunez said deputies used a harness to lower the man from the tree, but he died at the scene.
Miguel Franco, 92, Hollywood
Franco died at the Rehabilitation Center where he was a resident along with his wife.
His wife, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, was hospitalized and unable to understand what occurred on the day that eight patients died, their son Pedro Franco told WSVN-TV. Pedro Franco said he visited his parents at the nursing last week and both seemed fine.
"This is something that could've been prevented," he said.
Albertina Vega, 99, Hollywood
A celebration for Vega's 100th birthday next month was planned at the nursing home where she was among the eight who died Wednesday.
She loved pink lipstick and vacations at Fort Meyers, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Carmen Fernandez, the wife of Vega's cousin, frequently visited and told the newspaper she would have taken Vega to her home if she'd known the air conditioning was out at the nursing home.
Vega's husband died in 1986 and she did not have children.
"For me, right now, she is in peace with her husband," Fernandez said.
Carolyn Eatherly, 78, Hollywood
She had lived for about eight years at the nursing home where she was among the residents who died Wednesday.
Born and raised in Kentucky, she worked in accounting and lived in Fort Lauderdale and Tennessee before settling in the Miami area, her friend Linda Horton told the Sun Sentinel. She enjoyed going to the movies and working in her garden.
The two women were roommates for 20 years until Eatherly began suffering from Alzheimer's.
Stanley Williams, 59, Sandy Springs
Williams died when a tree fell on his suburban home, the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office in Atlanta said Wednesday.
Investigator Mark Gilbeau said Williams was crushed Monday by the fallen tree.
Nancy Eason, 67, Forsyth County
Eason, a retired court reporter, was in the passenger seat Monday when a large tree fell in a driveway, crushing her and trapping her husband, Mike Eason, who was in the driver's seat and suffered minor injuries, sheriff's officials said.
Nancy Eason worked for the Forsyth and Cherokee county judicial systems for many years. Mike Eason is a retired Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent and served as chief of the Cumming Police Department from 2005 to 2009.
Charles Saxon, 57, Calhoun Falls
Saxon died Monday after being struck by a tree limb as he was cleaning up limbs and debris outside his home, according to Abbeville County Coroner Ronnie Ashley.
An autopsy is planned for Saxon, who died at the scene.
William McBride, 54, Sumter County
McBride was pronounced dead Tuesday after he was found lifeless at his mobile home, where a generator was running inside, according to Sumter County Coroner Robert Baker Jr.
Baker says McBride died from carbon monoxide poisoning. McBride's sons found him at the home Tuesday morning, and the coroner said he had several appliances plugged into the generator, with only a single window cracked for ventilation.
Arthur Strudwick, 48, Columbia
Strudwick, a city Public Works Department employee, was on his way to help with a downed tree Monday night when he crashed his vehicle, according to Columbia City Manager Teresa Wilson.
Police said it appears Strudwick lost control of his pickup truck and went off the road, striking a tree during windy and rainy conditions. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Wilson said the city's flags will be lowered to honor Strudwick, who worked for the department's forestry division.
Zander Venezia, 16
Venezia, a professional surfer, drowned on Sept. 5 while surfing large swells generated by the hurricane on the island's east coast, according to family friend and surfing instructor Alan Burke. Witnesses said Venezia was caught up in a monster wave that held him under water. Burke said it was a freak accident that occurred under blue skies and ideal surfing conditions when the storm was still hundreds of miles (kilometers) away.
Venezia had won North Carolina's Rip Curl Grom Search surfing competition for his age group in August.
Carl Junior Francis, 2
Carl, who had just turned 2 on Aug. 17, was swept to his death after the storm ripped the roof off the family's house and water came in. The child's mother, Stevet Jeremiah, fled with her husband and Carl's 4-year-old brother but was unable to save the toddler.
"Where they were staying, the roof (was) blown off from the house and then water started getting in the house," said Sgt. James Thomas, second in command at the Barbuda police station. "They were trying to get out of the house when apparently the child got loose and got trapped in the water."
Maria del Carmen Arregoitia Cardona, 27, Bauta
Yolendis Castillo Martinez, 27, Santiago de Cuba
The women were riding in a bus in Havana that was crushed when a fourth-floor balcony collapsed onto the vehicle, according to an official statement released by the Cuban government.
Osvaldo Abreu Barroso, 71, Havana
Barroso was electrocuted while trying to take down his television antenna. He fell and came in contact with a live wire, according to the government statement.
Alberto Francisco Flores Garcia, 77, Havana
Garcia was struck by an electric pole toppled by the wind as he walked down a street, according to the government statement.
Roydis Valdes Perez, 54, Havana
Walfrido Antonio Valdes Perez, 51, Granma
The brothers were killed when the home of Roydis Valdes Perez partially collapsed in the storm, according to the government statement.
Nieves Martinez Burgaleta, 89, Plaza de la Revolucion
Burgaleta was found floating in flood waters in front of his inundated apartment building, according to the government statement.
Alberto Manzano Martinez, 65, Matanzas
Orlando Torres Cruz, 53, Bolivia
Edilberto Cabrera Rodríguez, 64, Esmeralda Camaguey
Government officials said the homes of all three men collapsed, and added they "did not observe the norms of conduct" by "refusing evacuation."
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This list has been corrected to reflect that Gail Nova was 71, not 70.