Local News

Still no answers for families of children who died in Fort Bragg housing

Posted October 26, 2010 12:33 p.m. EDT
Updated October 26, 2010 11:00 p.m. EDT

— Tests performed by the Fort Bragg Directorate of Public Works found nothing to indicate that the composition of on-post housing contributed to a series of unexplained infant deaths, a spokesman said Tuesday.

"I am quite confident that the homes are safe structures," said Col. Stephen Sicinski, Fort Bragg's garrison commander.

Ten children, ages 8 months to 2 years, have died in military housing on post since 2007, including one house where two infants died within three months.

Fort Bragg tested 10 homes connected to the deaths for carbon monoxide, mercury vapor, mold, lead, asbestos and toxins in the drywall.

All the tests were negative or were at levels well below the standard for human exposure set by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Sicinski said. Those levels, however, are based upon adults.

"I don't think the industry has a child tolerance set of standards," Sicinski said when pressed on the issue. "But we do know that all of the results that we did find, even based on the adults standards were really, really low. They barely registered on the scale."

"Our purpose for testing was to rule out the possibility that the environmental structure of the homes was the reason for the deaths," he said.

"What we set out to do, we accomplished, which was to rule out the homes as part of the problem," he said.

Sicinski said test data will be shared with all current and former residents of the homes.

He acknowledged the lack of closure for families, and he said that the investigation into the causes of the deaths remains open.

"I was hoping to provide families with some measure of reassurance that it wasn't the house, and I think it did that," he said.

MacKenzie Agee, whose son, Lockland, died two years ago, found little comfort in the announcement.

"The housing was horrible. It was disgusting. It was ... there was mold, rust, all kinds of issues," she recalled.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission is conducting its own tests of the homes for Chinese drywall, which has reportedly sickened people across the nation. Those tests are not yet complete.