Attorney General, LDH investigating Hurricane Ida warehouse deaths

Staff Report
Paramedics evacuate nursing home residents Sept. 2 from a mass shelter in Independence, where they had been taken in advance of Hurricane Ida.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and the Louisiana Department of Health have launched investigations into the deaths of four nursing home residents who were moved to a Waterbury Companies Inc. warehouse in Independence for Hurricane Ida.

According to a news release, Landry announced a team of his investigators at the Louisiana Department of Justice will take on a full investigation into the matter.

“Our goal will be to determine who decided to move these patients to this apparently unsafe and potentially inappropriate facility," Landry stated. "We wish to determine who authorized that these patients be moved to that facility, who oversaw the movement, who later turned away career staff members of the Louisiana Department of Health when they attempted to look into this situation. And why did the Police Chief and the Sheriff state an investigation was not needed. How exactly did these deaths occur?”

Landry expressed concern that his Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Unified Command Group were not informed of the potential patient abuse or neglect until the deaths were announced publicly. Additionally, the Attorney General said that the Police Chief of Independence and the Sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish, said they do not intend to investigate these deaths.

In the release, Landry pointed out that both the chief and the sheriff are brothers of the Governor.

“This may be a long process; and we are all in the middle of a recovery from Hurricane Ida, which requires our attention,” added Landry. “However, we must determine the facts surrounding these tragic deaths.”

Louisiana Department of Health officials also announced they have opened an investigation into the reported seven nursing homes and 843 residents evacuated to the facility in Independence.

An LDH news release said three of the four people who died have been classified as storm-related by the coroner. Definitive causes of death have not yet been confirmed.

According to LDH, 12 of the residents had to be hospitalized. 

LDH inspectors promptly visited the site upon hearing reports of deteriorating conditions at the facility following Hurricane Ida's landfall. According to the release, the inspectors were expelled from the property and prevented from conducting a full assessment on Aug. 31.

The nursing home residents were evacuated from the following seven facilities:

  • River Palms Nursing and Rehab, Orleans Parish
  • South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab, Lafourche Parish
  • Maison Orleans Healthcare Center, Orleans Parish
  • Park Place Healthcare Nursing Home, Jefferson Parish
  • West Jefferson Health Care Center, Jefferson Parish
  • Maison DeVille Nursing Home, Terrebonne Parish
  • Maison DeVille Nursing Home of Harvey, Jefferson Parish

Unless under a mandatory evacuation order, nursing homes make the decision of when and where to evacuate. They must always provide safe conditions for their residents, LDH's release stated.

"This is a serious and active investigation. We will be taking action against these nursing facilities, and will be making appropriate referrals to law enforcement," the LDH release concluded.

Ten storm-related deaths confirmed

Additionally, LDH has confirmed 10 total storm-related deaths due to Hurricane Ida, according to a Sept. 3 news release.

The St. John Parish coroner has confirmed the death of a 59-year-old male who died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator he was believed to have run run inside his residence. The coroner has confirmed this death is considered storm-related. 

The nine storm-related deaths previously confirmed by LDH include:

  • Three individuals died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Jefferson Parish: a 17-year-old male, a 23-year-old female and a 54-year-old female.
  • A 65-year-old female who drowned in floodwaters in Jefferson Parish.
  • Three deaths of nursing home residents related to the facility under investigation in Tangipahoa Parish. Those included a 59-year-old female from Jefferson Parish, a 52-year-old male from Orleans Parish, and a 77-year-old male from Terrebonne Parish.
  • A 60-year-old Ascension Parish male who died after a tree fell on a house.
  • An Orleans Parish male, age unknown, who drowned after driving through floodwater.

LDH reminds residents that carbon monoxide from generators is deadly. Only use a generator in a well-ventilated area and place away from structures, at least 20 feet away from your home, windows, and doors. Carbon monoxide poisoning was among the leading causes of death during storm events in 2020.