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12th death linked to Florida nursing home tragedy after Irma knocked out AC

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 29, 2017

This Sept. 13, 2017,  photo, a patient is transported from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood, Fla. (Amy Beth Bennett / associated press)
This Sept. 13, 2017, photo, a patient is transported from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood, Fla. (Amy Beth Bennett / associated press)
By Linda Trischitta Tribune News Service

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A 12th patient of the sweltering Hollywood nursing home died Thursday night, making her the youngest among the dead, according to the Broward Medical Examiner.

Dolores Biamonte, 57, was the latest to succumb to the stifling heat in the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. The facility was without air conditioning for three days after Hurricane Irma swept through the state.

Biamonte had the same symptoms as the other patients who were brought to Memorial Regional Hospital and died, so she is being included in the total deaths linked to the air conditioner failure, the Medical Examiner’s Office said. An autopsy was to be performed Friday.

Roberta Biamonte, the niece of the latest victim, said she spent some final moments late Thursday with her aunt, who was in hospice care after the nursing home evacuation. She said her goodbyes and left by about 9 p.m. It appears her aunt died after that.

“It’s sad, but she’s not suffering anymore. She’s missed deeply,” Roberta Biamonte, of Fort Lauderdale, said. “I’m proud to have her name as my middle name.”

Biamonte said her aunt was breathing heavily during her last hours. Dolores Biamonte suffered from a rare lifelong disease that affected her vision and ability to walk – she had been bedridden for about 20 years, her niece said.

“She was able to walk with someone holding on to her, and then it got worse as she got older,” she said.

When Dolores Biamonte’s parents died, other relatives were unable to give her round-the-clock care and she was moved into a nursing home. She lived at Hollywood Hills for more than three years, her niece said.

Roberta Biamonte said she will always remember her aunt’s love of all things feline. Her brother would sometimes bring a cat to Hollywood Hills to bring a smile to Dolores Biamonte’s face.

“She loved watching Animal Planet; she watched it every day. She couldn’t see, so she would listen to it,” her niece said. “She had a passion for cats. Anything that had a cat on it, from a shirt to a little cat figure, if it had a cat, she wanted it.

”And she loved painting her nails when she was able to do more, when I was younger,“ Roberta Biamonte said.

Since the first eight victims died Sept. 13, Hollywood police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have launched a criminal investigation into how the nursing home cared for patients; the state has shut down the facility; and legislators have vowed to better protect nursing home patients – the same promise they have made in the past.

The deaths also have raised questions about Florida Power & Light Co.’s response to a life-threatening situation and have resulted in intense finger-pointing among state, local and utility officials about who is at fault.

The eight people who died on Sept. 13, three days after the storm, were: Albertina Vega, 99; Carolyn Eatherly, 78; Manuel Mario Mendieta, 96; Gail Nova, 70; Bobby Owens, 84; Miguel Antonio Franco, 92; Estella Hendricks, 71; and Betty Hibbard, 84.

In the days after the initial death, three others died: Martha Murray, 94; Carlos Canal, 93; and Alice Thomas, 94.

Among those who died, body temperatures were as high as 109.9 degrees.

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