IMPLAUSIBLE: AC contractor dismisses reports air condition leak caused Americans deaths

IMPLAUSIBLE: AC contractor dismisses reports air condition leak caused Americans deaths

Health minister returned to Exuma with team yesterday as autopsy completed

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — While a handful of international media outlets have attributed a “faulty air conditioner” to the deaths of three Americans at Sandals Emerald Bay resort last week, a Bahamian air conditioning contractor and specialist yesterday called those claims implausible.

The expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said air conditioning leaks are frequent occurrences and cause mild irritation at best.

Refrigerant chemicals can include Chlorodifluoromethane, Difluoromethane, and Pentafluoroethane, non-flammable gases, that range in pounds per unit, though Chlorodifluoromethane, otherwise known as ‘Refrigerant 22’ is reportedly being phased out due to its impact on the Ozone layer.

[PHOTO: Royston Jones Jr]
“The refrigerant [causes] irritation, skin irritation if you’ve been exposed to it for a long time and it would have CHC which would deplete the Ozone layer, Chlorodifluoromethane,” said George Davidson, whose name has been changed at his request as he was not authorized to speak on the record.

He continued: “It can’t be the refrigerant. Remember now, modern air conditioning is throughout hundreds and thousands of buildings, hotels, the hotels that you stay in, and these have leaks. In this case, poison all two of them at the same time: That’s not possible. These are standalone units.

“Remember, these villas are very small villas — one-bedroom, two-bedroom villas, and that has a very small system, like a two-tonne that maybe has like four to five pounds of refrigerant.”

Davidson said with modern insulation requirements in The Bahamas, properties must have a fresh air inlet — a grill on the outside that pulls and circulates fresh air into an air-conditioned space.

As it relates to theories of carbon monoxide exposure, Davidson said the chemical could come from a water heater, or generator, but he was cautious not to speculate.

Acting Prime Minister Chester Cooper updates the media at the OPM on Tuesday.

Speaking generally, Davidson said a source of carbon monoxide, i.e. generator fumes, cars, fumes from the exhaust, entering the inlet system “can be a possible cause for having a concentrated, high levels of or carbon monoxide coming into a space”.

Yesterday, Acting Prime Minister Chester Cooper said the autopsy on the deceased guests was completed — one of three reports needed to determine the cause of death.

It could take another three weeks, according to authorities, for the pathology and toxicology reports to be completed, with blood samples sent to Pennsylvania to expedite the process.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Michael Darville returned to Exuma with a team yesterday to further investigate the site, though the nature of those studies were not revealed.

Authorities confirmed the identities of three Americans who died and the sole survivor on Monday.

Robbie Phillips and her husband, Michael, who jointly owned a Royal travel agency that frequently booked Sandals for their clients’’ destination weddings and honeymoons, were discovered dead in a villa at the resort around 9am last Friday.

The Maryville couple were celebrating their anniversary and praised the resort in one of Robbie’s final posts on Facebook.

Robbie Phillips and Michael Phillips pictured at Sandals [Sourced from Robbie’s FB page]
“If you want the most beautiful long private beach with clear blue water and you like to hear the waves lapping, see sand dunes and hear the seagulls talking — this is it!” wrote Robbie, who also owned a travel site called ‘The Sand Lady’ where she described herself as a ‘certified Sandals specialist’ and member of the elite Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club.

The page features Robbie winning the Chairman’s Royal Club award in 2015, as a top Sandals agent in the nation.

In addition to their travel agency, Robbie ran a travel site called The Sand Lady, where she described herself as a “certified Sandals specialist” and “member of the elite Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club.”

The couple is survived by their three adult children.

“Our hearts are grieving and broken, but full of hope,” the Phillips wrote in a statement to The Post.

“We know our Mom and Dad are experiencing fullness of joy in our heavenly Father’s presence.

“We already miss them terribly.

“Our parents left a legacy of faith in Jesus and generously loved their family and friends.”

Vincent Paul Chiarello, 65 (left) and his wife Donnis, 64, the sole survivor, pictured during their stay at Sandals to celebrate their anniversary.

Katelyn Love, a former client of the couple, said: “I am heartbroken to see this on the news tonight. Robbie Phillips made our honeymoon dreams come true. Sending prayers to their family.”

Vincent Chiarella, 64, was found dead in a second villa, while his wife, Donnis, the sole survivor, who was airlifted to New Providence, before being transferred to s hospital in Florida in serious condition.

Their son, Austin, said his mother awoke, unable to move, and her arms and legs were swollen.

She reportedly screamed for help, prompting staff to come to the room, where they discovered her husband unresponsive on the ground.


About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.