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Nevada EMTs Fight for Jobs Following 2006 Arrest for Failing to Aid Patient

LAS VEGAS -- Two emergency responders arrested last year and accused of letting a man die are fighting to get their jobs back with the Pahrump Valley Fire-Rescue Service.

Emergency medical technician Rodd Fernandes and paramedic Carrol L. Meeks are appealing their dismissal by the town of Pahrump, which fired the men in April in connection with a Nov. 24, 2006, call that ended in the death of Linus Wendler.

Pahrump Town Manager David Richards said the matter is set to be heard by an independent arbitrator in January.

Fernandes and Meeks have already been reinstated by the State Health Division s Emergency Medical Service and Trauma Program, which serves as the regulatory agency for EMTs and paramedics in Nevada.

Program Manager Fergus Laughridge said both men had their state licenses suspended in May. Fernandes, who did not appeal the disciplinary action, had his license reinstated on Nov. 6. Meeks successfully petitioned to have his suspension overturned and erased from his record on Oct. 12.

Laughridge said the hearing officer who presided over Meeks appeal ruled that he maintained a professional demeanor throughout the Nov. 24, 2006, call.

According to the Nye County Sheriff s Office, Meeks and Fernandes were dispatched to Wendler s trailer in Pahrump on a medical call, but the chronically ill 63-year-old shot himself in the head just as their ambulance arrived.

Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo said the emergency responders initially reported that Wendler was dead, but a deputy who arrived later noticed the man was breathing and still had a pulse.

DeMeo said Meeks and Fernandes had to be ordered to treat Wendler.

Regulatory standards dictate that paramedics and EMTs must render aid to any patient not clinically dead, regardless of how slim the chance of survival might be.

Wendler reportedly went without medical care at the scene for at least half an hour. He was pronounced dead within 16 minutes of his arrival at Pahrump s only hospital.

Six days after the incident, Fernandes and Meeks were booked on one count each of felony criminal neglect of a patient and felony neglect of an older person.

Neither man has been formally charged.

Nye County District Attorney Bob Beckett on Friday said he had not decided whether to prosecute Fernandes and Meeks or drop the case altogether. I anticipate a decision to be made here shortly, he said.

Laughridge said a criminal prosecution could prompt the state to consider further action against the two men s licenses.

At this point, though, both of them are cleared to return to work, Laughridge said. Right now, we re not anticipating any changes.

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