Horse's Shoe Caused Fatal Hyperbaric Tank Explosion

A Feb. 10 explosion at a hyperbaric oxygen chamber at a Florida equine facility that killed one woman and a horse was caused by contact from the horse’s steel shoe with the chamber.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office concluded in a report that the explosion, at the Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center (KESMARC) in Ocala, Fla., was an accident. The blast also injured a second woman.

Killed in the explosion was 28-year-old Erica Marshall, who was employed by KESMARC. Sorcha Moneley, 33, of London, England, who was at the facility to look at the oxygen chamber for possible future use in Europe, was injured during the accident.

According to the report, Moneley said the horse in the chamber had steel shoes on his hooves. He began kicking and knocked off a part of the chamber's protective padding, revealing a metal surface. When the horse kicked again, Moneley said, a spark was created when one of the steel shoes connected with the metal surface.

As Marshall attempted to return the chamber to normal pressure, Moneley left to call emergency personnel, the report said. As Moneley departed to call 911, according to the report, “she looked back and saw Erica staring at the monitor and crying." 

Moneley told the investigators she then heard two explosions in rapid succession. Moneley said the second explosion was much larger than the first. Moneley said she was about 20 feet away from the chamber when the explosion occurred and that the second one “knocked her down and took her breath away,” according to the report

Moneley also said “she was aware that there were some problems with the valves on the chamber leaking” and that the facility manager was attempting to have the problem reviewed by an engineer.

According to the report, KESMARC manager Leonora Byrne said that Marshall had operated the chamber for two years.

About the Author

Ron Mitchell/The Horse

Ron Mitchell is Online Managing Editor for The Blood-Horse magazine. A Lexington native, Mitchell joined The Blood-Horse after serving in editorial capacities with The Thoroughbred Record and Thoroughbred Times, specializing in business and auction aspects of the industry, and was editor-in-chief of the award-winning Horsemen’s Journal. As online managing editor, Mitchell works closely with The Blood-Horse news editor and other departments to make sure the website content is the most thorough and accurate source for all Thoroughbred news, results, videos, and data.

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