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Investigation Underway in Delayed Response to Boy's Fatal Dirt Bike Accident

FLINT, Mich. -- The long wait for an ambulance after a fatal dirt bike accident in Fenton Township, Mich., last week will be investigated by the county Medical Control Authority.

And in the wake of the tragedy, two members of the county Board of Commissioners say they still want to move forward with a new ambulance system that would hold companies more responsible for their response times.

"It's a sad thing," county Commissioner Jamie Curtis, D-Burton, said of the slow response in getting an ambulance to Tyler Waller, 7.

The boy died of internal injuries Monday after crashing his cycle at Fenton Indoor Motocross.

"These are the reasons why the Board of Commissioners took this task on three years ago," Curtis said.

The wait from just under 19 to 22 minutes "may have played a role" in the death, Curtis said. "It may have played no role, but these are the problems in our system that need to be fixed. Our ordinance addresses these issues."

Adopted in December, the new county ordinance is designed to create a system in which the county contracts with one or more ambulance companies to handle transports in two separate zones, with built-in penalties when response times are too long.

The current system generally allows private ambulances to set up bases around the county and handle calls based on which company has the base closest to an emergency - not based on its track record.

Regional EMS claims its ambulance made it to the Waller accident scene in fewer than 19 minutes more than twice as long as generally considered acceptable because the first rig it sent to the motocross track broke down.

A spokeswoman said that ambulance is being inspected by an independent mechanic to determine what caused it to malfunction.

An eight-minute response time is a standard that doctors and emergency workers say is important for ambulances to meet because it gives medical personnel the best chance to save lives.

Bruce A. Trevithick, executive director of the county Medical Control Authority, said the oversight organization will examine the entire Waller episode. The organization has the authority to penalize Regional if it finds that its protocols were not followed.

The company has said in a written statement that its dispatch and ambulance crews followed all Medical Control Authority protocols for response, notification of delay and reassignments.

The company and the county emergency dispatch center have offered differing timelines and versions of what happened that day.

"It's something we are going to investigate. ... We do have a protocol that requires vehicles to be mechanically sound," Trevithick said.

Curtis and county board Chairman Woodrow Stanley said a lawsuit filed by Swartz Ambulance Service to block the county ordinance hasn't stopped them from planning interviews with candidates to fill a new emergency medical services coordinator position.

Stanleysaid the county has no choice but to defend itself against the lawsuit before it implements the new system.

"Subject to a resolution, we will hopefully be able to go forward (then)," Stanley said. "We're not going to go forward with implementation given that we're in litigation."

The new EMS coordinator will work for the county commissioners, Curtis said, enforcing terms of a contract with whichever company or companies are chosen to work in the two zones.

Commissioners have said their goal is to have the new system in place by the start of next year.

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