LAS VEGAS — A Las Vegas spa where an employee was found frozen and dead inside a liquid nitrogen chamber used for cryotherapy treatments wasn't licensed by the state to perform cosmetic or other procedures, authorities said Tuesday.
The disclosure followed the death of 24-year-old Chelsea Patricia Ake-Salvacion, who was found Oct. 20 in a chamber used to provide the increasingly popular but largely unregulated treatments for pain and other conditions.
"When they found her, she was rock solid frozen," Albert Ake, the dead woman's uncle, said in an interview from his home in Reno.
Las Vegas police said the death doesn't appear to be suspicious and the case was closed without a criminal investigation.
Ake said he was told his niece texted her boyfriend on the night before she was found dead and said she was going to use the cryotherapy chamber at the Rejuvenice spa. She was also seen on security video locking the salon, he said.
Her co-worker arrived the following day and noticed Ake-Salvacion's car in the parking lot and her belongings in the business, Ake said.
Ake said he was troubled by reports that his niece misused the cryotherapy chamber or made a mistake. He said he was told she died within moments.
"Something went wrong," Ake said. "It's not operator error if she died within seconds."
Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg said no reports about Ake-Salvacion's death had been released by his office as of Tuesday. A determination of her cause of death was awaiting the results of toxicology tests.
Attempts to reach spa owners Christian Chateau and Kevin Goujon weren't immediately successful.
Cryotherapy involves placing users inside a chamber with sub-zero temperatures for just a minute or two to relieve pain. Athletes who have long used ice baths to ease their aches and pains have turned to whole body cryotherapy as a quicker way to recover after exercise or competition.
The treatment also is promoted as aiding weight loss, improving healing and increasing blood circulation, leading some salons to offer cryotherapy facials as an anti-aging remedy. Liquid nitrogen has long been used to treat and remove warts.
State regulators ordered two locations of Rejuvenice Cryotherapy shut down indefinitely after owners weren't able to provide proof of worker compensation insurance, said Teri Williams, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Business and Industry and the state Division of Industrial Relations. A third location slated to open soon was also affected.
"All three locations were issued a stop work order," Williams said.
On Monday, the Nevada State Board of Cosmetology ordered the spa where Ake-Salvacion died to shut down because it didn't have a license to perform skin and other advertised aesthetician services such as facials. The agency said there was a licensed professional at the spa, but the business itself wasn't licensed. The owners were fined $1,000.
"We didn't even know who they were," Gary Landry, executive director of the state cosmetology board, said about the spa owners. "They had never approached us."
Clark County officials said the owners applied for a business license in July and indicated the salon was undergoing renovations. A final inspection was pending and the county said the facility should not have been doing business.
Two state occupational safety agents determined that Ake-Salvacion should not have been using the cryotherapy chamber after-hours for personal use, said Williams, who also serves as spokeswoman for the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"The facts indicate that the fatality occurred as a result of employee misconduct or non-complaint activity," Williams said in an email. "The employer cannot be cited ... and further investigation is not warranted."
Ake-Salvacion grew up in Hawaii and moved to Las Vegas more than two years ago with her boyfriend, who recently returned to Hawaii to take a job, her uncle said. She planned to follow after another year at the spa and hoped to open a similar business of her own.
"She was a good spirit and loved everyone," Ake said. "She had the true aloha spirit. Aloha is love."
Associated Press researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.