Miami Beach ambulance takes 31 minutes to go 2 miles; man dies

03/20/2013 6:34 PM

03/20/2013 6:35 PM

Miami Beach fire rescue workers took 31 minutes to answer a call for help earlier this month — at a home just 2 miles from the nearest fire station, according to a police report.

The 65-year-old man waiting for help was pronounced dead three minutes after rescue workers finally arrived at his home in the Venetian Islands neighborhood.

The Fire Department is looking into the incident.

“We know there was a delay, and we are investigating,” fire Capt. Adonis Garcia said. “We are looking at it from top to bottom — from the phone call itself, to the dispatch, to the fire response, to everything.”

The deceased man’s wife called for help at 9:05 a.m. on March 5, according to a police report, after finding her husband splayed out on the floor. The husband, who had diabetes and Crohn’s disease, was “coherent and talking” when his wife ran to dial 911, according to an email the woman sent to a neighborhood email list.

The Fire Department was dispatched seven minutes after her first call — at 9:12 a.m., according to a police report.

As the couple waited for help, the wife wrote that she frantically ran between the bedroom where her husband lay, and outside, in the hopes of seeing a rescue truck. She called 911 one more time before rescue arrived at 9:36 a.m., according to her email and the police report.

“The rescue brought in an EKG machine, only to be told by a walkie talkie that it was offline and not working,” the wife wrote. “They started CPR and could not revive him.”

The man was pronounced dead at 9:39 a.m., according to police. The cause of death is not listed in the police report. The Fire Department said it couldn’t release the report on the call, citing medical privacy reasons.

The rescuers said they were delayed 10 minutes because of a raised drawbridge, the wife wrote in her email. The police report makes no mention of that.

Garcia, the fire captain, said that dispatch regularly communicates with drawbridge operators to make sure rescue trucks can get to their calls.

Normally, the Fire Department takes between 4 and 6 minutes to respond to requests for help, he added.

“We’re one of the fastest in the state,” Garcia said.

The wife’s email has made its way to City Hall.

“I was numb when I read it,” said City Commissioner Ed Tobin.

He said he has asked the city manager and fire chief for an investigation into what happened.

“It seems inexcusable,” he said, but added that he would wait to see what conclusions an investigation yields.

“Fire rescue is normally a department that gets nothing but accolades,” he said. “I’ll wait until I jump the gun.”

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