A 15-year-old boy died Wednesday after he was possibly exposed to a mysterious chemical in his West Park home, a day after he had been released from the hospital after feeling ill.
Relatives took the teen to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood on Tuesday, but he was released and sent home, according to Broward Sheriff’s spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright.
The boy’s father took him back to the hospital Wednesday because he still felt ill. He died there just after 9 a.m.
The Sheriff’s Office did not release the boy’s name. The hospital did not respond to requests for comment.
Exactly what killed the boy remains a mystery. Doctors were concerned because a strange odor, possibly gas, was coming from the boy’s body, Coleman-Wright said. The Sheriff’s Office responded by sending deputies and fire rescue to the house in the 5300 block of Southwest 24th Street.
A hazardous materials team and Hollywood Fire Rescue inspected the home and analyzed unidentified barrels to find what kind of chemicals may have been present in the home. But after scouring the home several times, they found none, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Coleman-Wright said other relatives who were in the home had no injuries and no symptoms of feeling ill.
As one of the deputies left the house, he complained that he was having trouble breathing. He was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood.
Later, firefighters entered the house in full gear. A firefighter was taken to Memorial Regional with what appeared to be a second-degree burn, but the Sheriff’s Office said later Wednesday that the firefighter’s skin irritation had nothing to do with entering the home or the call.
Both the deputy and firefighter were expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday.
It’s too soon to know whether the odor from the boy’s body is linked to the house or to 55-gallon drums found outside, Coleman-Wright said.
“They may or may not even be involved in this investigation or exposure,” Coleman-Wright said. “We do know that the family they used those drums to transport products back and forth from here to Haiti.”
Dr. John Marraccini, a private forensic pathologist and consultant and former chief medical examiner of Palm Beach County, said there is an array of causes for a deceased body to emit an odor, such as being exposed to a chemical outside of the home, inhaling a toxin or a natural cause, like sepsis or diabetes.
Without knowing what symptoms the boy said he had and whether his body had any unusual appearance, there are “all kinds of possibilities” for what could have caused the gas-like smell, Marraccini said.
The hazmat teams were taking samples from the drums, Coleman-Wright said. “They’re looking at the drums, they’re also taking samples and testing them to try to analyze them, to figure out what exactly is this that we’re dealing with.”