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Pope Blesses Poisoned Delaware Family in Secret Meeting at Philly Airport

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     Pope Francis at Philadephia airport

PHILADELPHIA – Pope Francis met Sunday night with a Delaware family of four who were poisoned by a dangerous pesticide used to kill wood beetles in the condominium below where they stayed on vacation in St. John in March.

The secret encounter took place in the Atlantic Aviation terminal at Philadelphia International Airport before the pontiff boarded his plane for the flight home.

The Pope kissed and blessed the family, said Brian Tierney, whose communications company handled media for the World Meeting of Families.

Recovery from the neurological damage cause by the chemical has been agonizingly slow for Theresa Devine, Stephen Esmond and especially their two teenage sons, who suffered the worst effects.

The family fell ill at Sirenusa Resort in Cruz Bay March 20 and paramedics found Esmond unconscious and the other family members suffering seizures.
Officials said they have been exposed to methyl bromide, a highly toxic pesticide that can cause convulsions, coma, and cognitive deficits and is banned for use indoors.

It had been sprayed in the condo below where the family was staying two days earlier to treat wood infested by Thai beetles, officials said.

After initial treatment, the four were flown to a hospital closer to their Wilmington home.

Devine, a dentist, was released first and is doing well physically, the family’s lawyer, James Maron, told CNN earlier this month.

Esmond, an administrator at the Tatnall School in Wilmington, still suffers from tremors, struggles to speak and has difficulty turning the pages of books, Maron said.

The boys – who had been students and athletes at Tatnall – spent weeks in medically induced comas. They are conscious but can barely move, Maron told CNN.

“Neurologically, it’s like being in a torture chamber,” he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Justice Department have each launched separate investigations into potential illegal application of the pesticide in the Virgin Islands, a probe that has expanded to Puerto Rico.

The pesticide, a neurotoxin, has been banned in many countries. The United States allows certain agricultural uses, but since 1984 it has not been legal to apply it in residential settings.

Terminix, the company whose employees used the pesticide, is slated to enter mediation Monday under the guidance of Ken Feinberg, who negotiated settlements for 9/11 victims, Maron said.

Sirenusa Resort rentals are managed by Seaglass Properties in St. John.

For more information from The Philadelphia Inquirer go to

delaware family

sirenusa 99

             Sirenusa Resort in St. John

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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