Terminix fined $9.2 million for use of pesticide that poisoned family

The company is criminally libel for using the chemical in March 2015, and family members continue to suffer from problems.

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Crossfit Riverfront had a fundraiser over the weekend to benefit the Esmond family who were stricken by poisonous pesticides during a vacation in the Virgin Islands. 10/5/15

Steve Esmond raises his arm as he and his family receive a standing ovation at the Tatnall School graduation ceremony earlier this year in Hockessin where 68 students graduated.(Photo: DOUG CURRAN/SPECIAL TO THE NEWS)

Terminix will pay $9.2 million in criminal fines tied to the company’s use of a banned pesticide that nearly killed a Delaware family vacationing in the Caribbean in March 2015, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The company was sentenced Monday, two years after the Esmond family fell ill. Federal prosecutors said Terminix admitted to using a pesticide called methyl bromide at 14 locations – including at the Sirenusa condominium resort in St. John where the Esmonds were vacationing. 

 “An entire family suffered horrendous and life-altering injuries. We will continue to aggressively enforce environmental laws to help prevent something like this from ever happening again,” said Attorney Joycelyn Hewlett for the District of the Virgin Islands in a news release.

Sean Esmond receives his diploma as Tatnall School honors the 62 graduates in the Class of 2017 during the school’s 86th commencement earlier this year. Esmond and his brother, Ryan, also a Tatnall student, and his father, Stephen, head of Tatnall middle school, were poisoned and left with severe health issues including paralysis when pesticide banned for indoor use was sprayed in the US Virgin Islands condo where they were vacationing in 2015. Sean Esmond plans to continue his studies at Villanova University. (Photo: William Bretzger, The News Journal)

The pesticide, which is odorless and can severely damage the central nervous and respiratory systems, has been banned for indoor use by the Environmental Protection Agency since 1984.

A Terminix worker sprayed the pesticide in the condo below where the family – Steve Esmond, then-head of Tatnall’s middle school; his wife, Dr. Theresa Divine; and their two sons – was staying for eight nights. The family fell ill two days later.

Months later the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands said Esmond and his sons were in serious to critical condition and had suffered neurological damage.

Terminix will pay $8 million in fines and $1 million in restitution to the Environmental Protection Agency for response and clean-up costs at the St. John resort, according to U.S. Justice Department. 

STORY: Poisoned Del. family likely to get $87M in Terminix case

STORY: Del. family poisoned in Caribbean in grave condition, governor says

The company will also perform community service related to training commercial pesticide applicators in fumigation practices and a separate health services training program, prosecutors said.

It is unclear how much the Esmonds have received from the company. The sentencing announcement said “full restitution” had been made to the family.

Financial filings by Terminix’s parent company last year suggested a settlement nearing $90 million was in the works.

Attempts to reach the family were unsuccessful. 

Contact Xerxes Wilson at (302) 324-2787 or xwilson@delawareonline.com. Follow @Ber_Xerxes on Twitter.

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