Patient badly burned in fire involving defibrillator at Kingwood hospital

KINGWOOD, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston police are investigating the death of a patient at a Kingwood hospital after she was badly burned in a fire as medical staff used a defibrillator on her.

Denise Jill Asaro, 69, of Cleveland, died at the hospital on Saturday. Kristi Robbins, her niece, said she was being treated for COVID-19.

Hospitalized on the fifth floor of the North Tower at HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood, Asaro was being resuscitated with a defibrillator when something caught fire and caused a small explosion, according to Houston police.

Officials are investigating whether the defibrillator being used ignited something in the room. They were also looking into the presence of an open medical oxygen tank as a possible factor. Robbins said her aunt was badly burned.

"It was literally her entire upper torso that was burned horribly, to the point of having to have a closed casket," said Robbins. "Who would ever expect your relative to be burnt to a crisp in a hospital."

In a statement, the hospital called the incident "tragic."

"The hospital and its medical staff take this matter very seriously," the statement continued. "We have begun an internal investigation and are working with local authorities to assist with their investigation. Our current focus is on supporting the family."

HPD said a death investigation is underway. An autopsy will determine whether Asaro died from the fire or from something else.

It has been a month filled with loss for the family. On June 2, Asaro's youngest son died and on Father's Day, her husband died from COVID, said Robbins.

She and Asaro were very close. Robbins said Asaro was always there for her. Now, she is asking for prayers and wants answers.

"I do believe there should be protocols in place," Robbins said. "You want to make sure it never happens again and God help us if it happened to another family."

Read the full statement from HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood below:

"A tragic incident occurred at HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood on Saturday, June 26. Because we are obligated to protect patient confidentiality, the hospital is not at liberty to discuss any specific details about the incident or the patient involved.

The hospital and its medical staff take this matter very seriously. We have begun an internal investigation and are working with local authorities to assist with their investigation. Our current focus is on supporting the family.

We remain committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all of our patients, visitors, and colleagues."


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