SAN MATEO, Calif. - A 93-year-old woman died, and two other seniors are in the hospital after a tragic mistake at a San Mateo senior living facility.
Atria Park Senior Living Facility admits that its staff members mistakenly served dishwashing liquid as drinking juice.
San Mateo police said they are handling the case and are investigating it the same way they do all cases. It's unclear whether any criminal charges will be filed.
On Tuesday, it appeared to be business as usual at the senior citizens home on Norfolk Street in San Mateo. But on Sunday night at about 8:20 p.m. police were called to Atria Park on report of a poisoning.
"The resident at the care home facility had ingested chemicals and as a result of that was ill and transported to the hospital," said Officer Alison Gilmore.
A family member tells KTVU the woman who died is 93-year-old Trudy Maxwell. The family member believes Maxwell ingested a red colored chemical cleaner, not a dishwashing liquid.
As officers continued to investigate they learned there were actually two additional victims who had also been transported to the hospital before police arrived.
There were a total of three residents at the facility who apparently consumed the dishwashing liquid.
"Every avenue is being thoroughly investigated so if there is a criminal component any responsible party would be brought to justice," said Gilmore.
Kathryn Stebner, a San Francisco-based attorney focusing on elderly legal matters, is not associated with this case, but she said it is very unusual.
"This is unusual because it happened to more than one person," Stebner said.
Stebner said she's had previous cases where one person, often with dementia, ingested something harmful.
"But to have three people do that is really unheard of, and what strikes me is that, most probably, this is due to some low staffing and training," Stebner said.
Stebner said she does not have much doubt sort of negligence is involved.
"For me it smells of low staffing, which is in really every single one of these cases against these chains is low staffing," Stebner said.
Atria Senior Living sent the following statement to KTVU: "We can confirm three of our residents were recently transported to the hospital after mistakenly being served dishwashing liquid as juice. We have been working with local authorities, who have informed us that one resident passed away. Our sincerest condolences are with the family.
When this occurred, our staff immediately contacted authorities, and the residents were transported to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. We are conducting our own internal investigation, and the employees involved have been suspended until this investigation concludes. We will continue working with the police and Department of Social Services to fully review and assess the incident, after which we will take additional actions as needed. The safety and well-being of our residents remain our top priorities at all times. Out of respect for the people involved, we cannot comment further."
Maxwell leaves behind nine children and 20 grandchildren.