Fire Director 'Accosted' EMT at Crash, Union Says


 
 

Jonathan SchuppeJeffrey C. Mays | | Thursday, November 15, 2007


NEWARK, N.J. -- University Hospital rescue workers are asking Newark Mayor Cory Booker to investigate an allegation that Fire Director David Giordano accosted an EMT at the scene of an early morning car crash in the city s Ironbound section earlier this month.

I don t like what happened. It s outrageous, said John Gerow, president of Teamsters Local 97, which represents the hospital s emergency medical technicians. These EMTs are well trained and certified and know what they re doing, and when there s a life hanging in the balance, why would anybody step in between them? It doesn t make sense.

Union business agent George A. Burr Jr. outlined the episode in a letter to Booker, saying Giordano may have delayed patient care when he showed up at a Nov. 4 accident scene where five people were trapped in a car at the corner of St. Charles Place and Rome Street.

As an EMT approached the victims just before 3 a.m., he was accosted by Giordano, who grabbed and shook him and told him this is a fire scene, back off, according to the letter. The EMT broke away to help get the victims out of the car, but Giordano continued his diatribe of vulgarity and aggression in front of other EMTs, firefighters, police and a crowd of onlookers.

Finally, Police Chief Anthony Campos showed up and escorted Giordano from the scene, the letter says. Newark police say no complaints were filed.

Lupe Todd, a spokeswoman for Booker, said Business Administrator Bo Kemp received a copy of the letter but it has yet to be reviewed by the mayor.

If there is an allegation that a city employee allegedly put his hands on another person, one would anticipate there was a formal complaint filed with the police department, which we have not seen, said Todd. Once the mayor is able to review the letter, he will most certainly forward it to the proper authorities.

The five victims made it to the hospital, where four of them were in critical condition but expected to recover, officials said.

In an interview yesterday, Giordano denied assaulting the EMT. He said the real problem was vague city policy on which agency has authority at a scene that requires extrication from a wrecked car.

Nobody was ever assaulted, Giordano said. There was a disagreement over who was in charge of the scene of a car extrication. It s usually whoever got there first and the understanding is we were there first.

Gerow, former head of the city s firefighters union, said the EMTs arrived at the scene first. He stressed that EMTs and firefighters rarely argue about who s in charge at accident scenes. That debate typically takes place among the brass, but that shouldn t happen at the scene.

We can separate who should be doing what after the people are treated, he said. Nothing should come in the way of treating victims of a car accident or any accident for that matter.

Gerow said he respected Giordano s position, but Giordano, he said, should have used a little better judgment.

He added, It shouldn t have happened, but cooler heads prevailed.

Giordano, who said he heard the call over the radio, was in the area and went to the scene.

This is a non-issue that people are making into something, said Giordano. It was a disagreement over who should have been in charge of the incident. We need to set standard operating procedure. I can t believe we have police, fire and rescue racing to a scene to say, It is my job.

Giordano said that with recently obtained equipment, there is one fire company in each ward that can handle car extrications. By next year, there should be two fire companies in each ward to handle extrications.

Patient care was not compromised because he was on the scene, Giordano said.

All rescue workers were working on the scene when I got there and continued to work, Giordano said.

Jonathan Schuppe covers Newark. He may be reached at jschuppe@starledger.com or (973) 392-7960. Jeffrey C. Mays covers Newark City Hall. He may be reached at jmays@starledger.com or (973) 392-4149.


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