Did Conflict of Interest Protect Terminix in St. John Condo Poisoning of Family?

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The Sirenusa condominium resort, above, was featured on CNN and the victim of an improper pesticide application by the the local agent of the international Terminix International, but is caught up in the aftermath of the poising of a vactioning family of four including two teenage boys who suffered severe exposure to the toxic chemical which is banned for use around humans.

ST. JOHN ­— Did the St. Thomas franchise of the Terminix International exterminating company get preferential treatment after the poisoning of a New Jersey family at an Enighed condominium because the former general manager of the St. Thomas company was the father of the acting commissioner of the investigating V.I. environmental agency?

The family of four — a private school administrator and a medical doctor and their two teenage sons — were overcome in the early morning hours of March 20 at the unit they had rented at the Sirenusa condominiums overlooking Cruz Bay.

The family members suffered varying degrees of exposure and serious neurological injuries, but their attorney spokesperson has informed the media that the family wanted privacy and would be making no comments on their recovery.

Company Still Operating
“Terminix is still operating in the V.I. and spraying on St. John,” an on-line reader e-mailed St. John Tradewinds through an internet site which enables anonymous mailing. “I find that astounding — and insulting to the family that was nearly killed.”

There has been no public announcement by authorities of any charges being filed or the results of any federal or local investigations of the poisoning incident.

“I don’t know if your paper is interested, but I came across some interesting links that may add a little depth to the Sirenusa poisoning story,” a St. John Tradewinds reader e-mailed St. John Tradewinds anonymously and somewhat erroneously.

“The manager for St. Thomas-St. John Terminix is Hans Oriol,” the anonymous message misstated.  

An internet professional site does still list Hans Orial as general manager of the St. Thomas company, however, two telephone calls to Terminix confirmed that Hans Oriol had left the company “last year.”

“He is the father of J.P. Oriol, who was the Acting Commissioner at DPNR when the Sirenusa poisoning occurred,” the anonymous Tradewinds correspondent wrote. “As shown by (eventually confirmed) Dawn Henry’s V.I. Senate Confirmation Hearing, DPNR is tasked with oversight of pesticide use in the Territory.”

St. John Tradewinds could not confirm that the highly-regulated chemicals were obtained or stored by the Terminix during Oriol’s time at the company before they were used improperly at the St. John condominiums.

DPNR Leads Response on St. John
Commissioner Designee Dawn L. Henry, Esq. of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) confirmed in a press release after the incident that “on March 20, 2015, the department received a call from the Virgin Islands Department of Health of a possible Methyl Bromide release at Sirenusa Residences on St. John, which caused a family vacationing in one of the units to be transported to the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas.”

DPNRs’ Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) immediately responded to the complaint and deployed staff to St. John to begin its investigation, according to Henry’s press statement. Consecutively, Jeff Garrison, Environmental Protection Agency-Region II, local representative was in contact with DPNR Commissioner Designee Henry, to launch a joint investigation.

“During the preliminary stages of the investigation, DPNR learned that the suspected Methyl Bromide release was connected to fumigation activities which Terminix International USVI, LLC, (Terminix) conducted in Unit J Lower at Sirenusa Residences on March 18, 2015,” Henry announced. “On March 20, 2015, DPNR-DEP contacted Terminix to inquire about the fumigation activities on March 18, 2015, and confirmed that Terminix used Meth-O- Gas ® Q to fumigate the kitchen area in Unit J Lower at Sirenusa Residences on March 18, 2015.”

“Looking through all the local and national coverage of the story, I don’t see Hans Oriol’s name publicized anywhere — not sure if that was intentionally done via DPNR’s press releases to hide the identity or not,” the source added.

There was no mention of any personal connection between Terminix and the DPNR’s J.P. Oriol by the DPNR spokesperson in the aftermath of the poisoning.  Oriol’s possible connection to Terminix has not been raised by the attorney representing the family. The DPNR spokesperson did not return calls Friday July 17 seeking clarification on any possible connection between DPNR’s Oriol and the former manager of Terminix.

Helpful Reader Questions Reporting
“I don’t know if your paper is interested, but I came across some interesting links that may add a little depth to the Sirenusa poisoning story,” a St. John Tradewinds reader e-mailed St. John Tradewinds anonymously.

“The manager for St. Thomas-St. John Terminix is Hans Oriol,” the anonymous message erroneously stated.  He is the father of J.P. Oriol, who was the Acting Commissioner at DPNR when the Sirenusa poisoning occurred,” the anonymous Tradewinds correspondent wrote.

Two telephone calls to Terminix from St. John Tradewinds confirmed that Hans Oriol had left Terminix St. Thomas “last year.”

Pesticide Use Is Restricted
The pesticide blamed for poisoning the family at the unit they had rented at the Sirenusa condominiums overlooking Cruz Bay was banned for any non-agricultural use and most pesticides for residential use are labeled with warnings against use in interconnected condominium units such as Sirenua, according to professionals.

In the family’s poisoning, a vacant unit connected to the family’s unit was treated with the dangerous chemical gas that spread to a connected condominium where the two teenage children were overcome late in the evening and the parents subsequently were overcome and suffered seizures.

The chemical poisoning has caused severe nerve and or brain-damage to the family’s two teenage boys who are recovering slowly, according to St. John Tradewinds sources. The parents both are undergoing rehabilitation for similar injuries.

There has been no public comment on the medical condition of the family members from their lawyer since the family was airlifted to the U.S. mainland for treatment in New Jersey.

Gov. Mapp Gets Involved
Gov. Kenneth Mapp serendipitously gave a detailed report on the medical conditions of the family in the midst of a recent press conference focusing on Government house fiscal matters in early July, but there has been no official information on any DPNR investigation, enforcement or legal action against Terminix.

It could not be determined if the lawyer for the family had already ascertained the father-son connection between Terminix and DPNR. Atty. James Moran, who is also a family friend of the victims, said after initial contacts that he would not be commenting further on the family’s recovery or health to respect their privacy.

“So, when the family was poisoned, J.P. Oriol, head guy at DPNR, was sending his staff out to police his father’s illegal use of a highly-regulated pesticide, which has apparently done permanent damage to multiple individuals,” the source apparently incorrectly wrote St. John Tradewinds.

“Even the connection to Terminix came out far slower than was expected and warranted, as everyone in the territory wanted, and needed, to know if their properties, renters, and families were in similar danger,” the anonymous reader wrote St. John Tradewinds.

“In this case, though, the lack of oversight and punishment has led to a family totally torn apart,” the anonymous author concluded.