Company fined $10 million for using nerve agent and poisoning US family

The Justice Department has fined Terminix $10 million after the pest control company illegally used a nerve agent that sickened a Delaware family vacationing on the US Virgin Islands.

"Terminix companies knowingly failed to properly manage their pest control operations in the US Virgin Islands, allowing pesticides containing methyl bromide to be applied illegally and exposing a family of four to profoundly debilitating injuries," US Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden said in a statement Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

A criminal investigation began last year after a Delaware family vacationing in St. John in March 2015 was poisoned and suffered seizures. Employees of Terminix had used methyl bromide at a vacation unit below the one the family had rented.

Two teenagers were hospitalized in critical condition and have permanent neurological damage, while their parents also underwent treatment. A lawyer representing the family said that the brothers were barely able to move months later, trapped in bodies badly damaged by the nerve agent.

"Neurologically, it's like being in a torture chamber," attorney James Maron told CNN last year.

The nerve agent is a restricted-use pesticide, and has been banned for indoor use by Environmental Protection Agency for more than two decades.

Exposure to methyl bromide can result in serious health effects, including central nervous system and respiratory system damage, according to the EPA.

The pest control company was charged with illegally using methyl bromide at the St. John resort and 13 residential locations across the US Virgin Islands in recent years. The US Justice Department said Terminix agreed to pay the fine and has stopped using the pesticide on the US mainland and in its territories.

Justice Department officials said Terminix will resolve the family's medical expenses through a separate civil process as part of a three-year probation.

Virgin Islands US Attorney Ronald Sharpe said the case highlights the need to comply with environmental laws.

"Tragically, the defendants' failure to do so resulted in catastrophic injuries to the victims and exposed many others to similar harm," he told The Associated Press.

The criminal investigation is continuing.