Romanian nurse charged for alleged manslaughter following fire that killed 5 newborns

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A court in Romania ruled Tuesday to imprison a nurse, following a blaze that killed five newborns and injured six others at a maternity hospital in Bucharest.

The court said that nurse Florentina Carstea will be imprisoned for 29 days pending trial on manslaughter charges. The decision can be appealed.

Prosecutors investigating the Aug. 16 blaze said Carstea was missing from duty when the fire started, leaving unattended the intensive care unit for premature babies.

Carstea's lawyer Simona Parvu told Mediafax news agency her client was not attending a party in the hospital at the time of the blaze. Reports alleged that Carstea was in a different ward, celebrating with colleagues.

Parvu also said that there should have been at least two other medical staff working with her, but she was working alone because of cutbacks in health spending. She said Carstea had left the unit to go to the bathroom and had then been distracted by a colleague who needed help in another ward.

Investigators said Carstea was missing for 12 minutes from the intensive care unit, according to images gathered by the surveillance cameras on the corridor.

The investigation also revealed improvised electrical wiring started the fire. Investigators said the blaze developed very quickly because of compressed air and oxygen from the equipment in the unit.

Prosecutor Marius Iacob said other people might be charged in the case.

The fire caused widespread indignation in Romania, where health care is understaffed and underfunded.