Driver of Ambulance in Crash that Killed Doctor Fined $213

Driver fined for failure to keep vehicle under control in crash that sparked renewed debate about box-style ambulances


 
 

David Wahlberg, Wisconsin State Journal | | Monday, August 12, 2013


The driver of the Meriter Hospital ambulance that crashed last month, killing a UW-Madison doctor on board, was fined $213 for failure to keep the vehicle under control, according to the final accident report released Friday.

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No alcohol was found in the blood of Ross Fleming, 62, who drove the ambulance when it crashed about 12:35 p.m. July 10 south of Rosendale. Results of tests for other drugs aren't available, but no substance use was suspected and no criminal charges will be filed, said Capt. Rick Olig of the Fond du Lac Sheriff's Office.

Phone records showed Fleming wasn't using his phone before or during the crash on northbound Highway 26, the report says.

Fleming told investigators he accidentally drove off the road as it curved and couldn't get back before the vehicle hit a culvert and flipped on its side. He said he didn't fall asleep, was going about 60 mph in the 55-mph zone and was about 500 feet behind a semi-trailer truck. Witnesses in the vehicle behind him generally confirmed his speed.

Fleming, retired from the Madison Police Department, said he usually drove the ambulance for short trips in the Madison area. On July 10, the unit equipped for newborn patients was going to Appleton to pick up a baby for specialized surgery in Madison.

Killed was Dr. Stanley Phillips III, 32. He had started a fellowship, or specialized training program after finishing medical school and a residency program, on July 1 at UW Hospital.

Two other medical workers in the back of the ambulance were treated and released. Another, who remained at UW Hospital for several days after surgery for her injuries, is no longer there.

Some national EMS safety experts say the "box on a truck" model of ambulance, like Meriter's, isn't as safe for passengers as van-style models used in some places. The van models absorb energy from crashes better, are equipped with stability controls and undergo extensive safety testing, according to Dr. Nadine Levick, founder of the EMS Safety Foundation.

But other EMS officials say van-style rigs aren't large enough to carry necessary equipment and personnel, a key reason box-style vehicles are much more widely used.

Kathy Kostrivas, Meriter's assistant vice president for women's health services, said Meriter will consider getting a van-style ambulance.

For now, Meriter is using ambulances equipped for newborns from St. Mary's and UW hospitals if needed. They are the box models.

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