Woman, horse killed, 1 injured in Marion Co. hyperbaric chamber explosion



MARION COUNTY, Fla.,None - A deadly explosion has killed a 28-year-old woman and a horse near the Marion-Levy county line.

The horse was being treated in a hyperbaric chamber at the Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation Center near Ocala.


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Farm manager Erica Marshall died just three days shy of her 29th birthday, and the horse inside the chamber, which was being treated for tissue damage, was killed instantly.

The horse, from a Virginia farm, was spending the winter in Florida going through rehab.

Two employees were monitoring the horse by video from another room when he became agitated and started to kick.

Investigators said the employees tried to activate an emergency switch to decompress the chamber, but the horse had already kicked off a quarter-inch thick protective coating when his steel boot made contact with the steel chamber, creating a spark that cause the explosion.

Investigators said debris flew 1,200 feet when the explosion ripped off part of the roof and the siding.

"It is believed that the hyperbaric chamber caused the explosion," said Jessica Greene with Marion County Fire Rescue.

"I've stood in the chamber myself when we've had tours and things for classes, and it never crossed my mind that something like this could happen. It's horrible. It's terrible," the horse's owner, Kristen Petzold, said.

Sorcha Moneley, 33, was transported to Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and is being treated for head trauma.

Thirty other horses inside the facility were not hurt.

"It's horrible … just horrible, freak accident," Petzold said.

The chamber was built three years ago by New Phase Construction and went through five inspections. But it's unclear when the chamber was last inspected.

Equestrian experts said it's highly unusual to put horses inside the chambers without tranquilizing them first, but it's not required.

WFTV was told that this could have been prevented if the horse had aluminum shoes because those are not magnetic and wouldn't have caused that spark.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also investigating.