Author Topic: A Second Death Investigated at Woods Services in 1 yr.  (Read 1558 times)

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Offline Inculcated

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A Second Death Investigated at Woods Services in 1 yr.
« on: October 12, 2010, 01:03:40 PM »
Second suspension in Woods Services deathBy: JO CIAVAGLIA AND GEORGE MATTAR The Intelligencer
Since 1999, at least eight other adults with disabilities in the U.S. have died of hyperthermia after they were left in cars.

A Middletown residential center for people with severe disabilities launched an internal investigation Tuesday into the death of a 20-year-old client with severe autism found dead in a minivan parked near his residence hall.

In a press release Tuesday, Woods Services said its employees are "deeply pained" for the family of Bryan Nevins, who had severe autism and died of hyperthermia after he was apparently left inside the vehicle for more than five hours Saturday after an outing to Sesame Place.

"The tragic incident that occurred at Woods Services this past weekend is heart wrenching and devastating," the release said. "Our utmost concern is, and has always been, the health and welfare of our residents.

The State Department of Public Welfare, which licenses the center in Middletown, has initiated an investigation into Nevins' death, the second in less than a year involving a resident of the private residential treatment center and school for adults and children with severe physical or development disabilities.

Woods Services confirmed Tuesday that a second unidentified residential counselor who also chaperoned clients on the Sesame trip that day has been suspended.

How Nevins, originally from Long Island, N.Y., was left inside the seven-passenger van after the trip to the theme park remains unclear. Nevins, three other clients and two counselors went on the trip and returned about noon.

Police have the tickets the group purchased from Sesame Place, a parking receipt punched at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and a receipt from a nearby McDonald's at 11:30 a.m.

Police could not say if the minivan doors were locked or if Nevins was wearing a seatbelt when Woods Services employees found him Saturday evening, after a nurse noticed he was not in his room.

The van was parked in its proper space, in front of the residence hall about 200 feet from the building where Nevins and the other clients who went on the trip lived, police said.

"That remains under investigation. I am still muddling through all the evidence and trying to set up a sequence of events leading up to them finding him," Middletown Detective Jeffry Sproehnle said. No criminal charges had been filed as of Tuesday.

Woods Services holds numerous state licenses, renewed annually. One is for a child residential treatment center, the license that the state is investigating in Nevins' death, spokesman Michael Race said. That license expires in August.

The state conducted its annual inspection in May 2009 and found two minor deficiencies that were corrected before the license was renewed.

Last year a 17-year-old Woods Service resident from New York died after he was struck by at least two cars after falling from a Route 1 highway overpass after running away from the campus.

The Bucks County coroner ruled the death accidental. A state investigation concluded the boy fell, staff members were at their assigned posts and they took appropriate action when he ran away, and the building alarms worked, according to the state report.

Woods Services spokeswoman Cheryl Kauffman said supervision, including the client/supervision ratio and other responsibilities, varies depending on a client's individual care plan.

Police said after the group returned from the Sesame trip Saturday, a male counselor escorted his two clients to their residence and a second female counselor, who also has been suspended, took one client to the residence hall; she later dropped off the van keys at the end of her shift.

 Nevins, who was seated in the far rear seat of the van, was found lying on his back inside the van about 5:35 p.m., police said.

A nurse who came on duty about 4 p.m. went to Nevins' room to give him medicine. She could not locate him and called a supervisor. The person in charge of Nevins' residence hall thought he was still on the Sesame Place trip, police said.

The nurse and residence hall manager searched buildings and finally found him in the van. The engine was not running and the van has dark, tinted windows.

Police estimate Nevins had been inside the van for up to five and a half hours. They were unable to get a temperature inside the van, since staff opened all the doors and hatchback prior to police arriving on the scene.

Temperatures on Saturday reached 97 degrees with the heat index - the combination of temperature and humidity - hitting triple digits.

Hyperthermia occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate. If the core body temperature exceeds 104 degrees, the body's temperature regulation system overloads and stops working.

As a result, the body temperature climbs uncontrollably. The person stops sweating. They become disoriented, agitated. Their mental status is altered and they may hallucinate. The person eventually loses consciousness, and develops a rapid heart beat. Once the core body temperature exceeds 107 degrees, multi-organ system failure begins.

Temperatures inside a car can rise 43 degrees in an hour. On a breezy 70-degree afternoon, the temperature inside a closed car rises 19 degrees in 10 minutes.

Nevins' death was the second heat-related car death involving an adult with a disability this year, according to, a vehicle safety advocacy group.

Since 1999, at least other eight adults with disabilities in the U.S. have died of hyperthermia after they were left in vehicles according to the group. All but three cases involved unrelated caregivers.

Nevins is one of a set of triplets; he was described as very low functioning, unable to speak, but able to walk. He had lived at Woods Services for the last six years, police said. His father is a retired New York City police detective, a family friend said.

His brother, who until Saturday was also a Woods Services client, also has autism, a developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and form relationships. The brother, Bill, also 20, was not on Saturday's trip.

The brothers also have a fraternal sister, who does not have autism.

Patti Erickson, of the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the Autism Society of America, expressed sympathy for the Nevins family as well as the Woods Services staff on Tuesday.

"The most important thing is the safety of autism patients, whether they are in a learning environment or having fun. We need a very thorough investigation to see what happened," she added.
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