02/17/2012 1:42PM

Survivor of hyberaric chamber explosion provides details


The fatal hyperbaric chamber explosion at Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center in Ocala, Fla. was an accident caused when a horseshoe on a chamber patient caused a spark that ignited in the chamber’s pressurized, oxygen-rich environment.

The Feb. 10 explosion killed Kesmarc employee Erica Marshall, 28, and the 6-year-old Thoroughbred under treatment. It also injured another woman, 33-year-old visiting observer Sorcha Moneley.

The animal, Jacqueline Mars’s three-day event horse Landmark’s Legendary Affaire, was wearing steel shoes in the hyperbaric chamber, according to an Ocala Star-Banner story based on the police report.

Moneley told Marion County Sheriff’s Office investigator Rhonda Stroup that the gelding’s shoes were not covered with protective wrap. Moneley also told Stroup that the horse had been sedated before entering the chamber, although he had received multiple treatments previously with no problems. Kesmarc manager Leonora Byrne, however, told Stroup the horse had not been sedated. Moneley said that about 22 minutes into the treatment, the horse became “unsettled” and kicked inside the chamber, knocking a lid off the back of the chamber and exposing metal that had no protective coating. The horse continued to kick, creating sparks, and then Moneley saw a “massive spark inside the chamber and then flames,” the report said.

Moneley left the area immediately around the chamber in order to call the fire department while Marshall remained at the controls to return the chamber to normal pressure. Moneley said there were two blasts in quick succession, the second of which was larger and knocked her to the ground.

Marshall’s body was recovered from the destroyed control room. Her funeral took place Friday in Ocala.

The accident remains under investigation by Florida’s Fire Marshal’s Office and the federal agency Occupational Safety and Health Administration.