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Chicago Fire Department Settles Fatal Gurney Accident Case

The family of a chronically ill woman who fell off a gurney, hit her head and died because it was being pushed by one paramedic instead of two is in line for a $300,000 settlement.

Chicago Fire Department policy stipulates that ambulance gurneys be pushed by two paramedics - one at the head of the patient, the other at the feet - to keep the gurney stable in the event it rolls across a depression or imperfection.

That's not what happened Sept. 4, 2009, in the 5200 block of North Rivers Edge Drive after an ambulance was summoned to assist 74-year-old Mary Strazz, who was having trouble breathing.

"They all knew the policy. They didn't follow it. They had the smallest member of the crew pushing the gurney" by himself, said Jeff Comeau, an attorney representing the dead woman's family.

"He pushed it into a depression or hole in the parking lot and lost control of the gurney. It tipped over. She struck her head on the pavement and died several days later."

Although the paramedics denied having violated their own policy, Comeau said their argument was destroyed by the deposition of a condominium resident, who watched in horror as the tragedy unfolded.

"He testified that it looked to him like a fraternity hazing," Comeau said.

"They had three or four very large, strong-looking firemen or paramedics who just stood there watching while the smallest member of the crew pushed the gurney by himself. . . . With conscious disregard for the suffering of the patient, they violated their own policy."

The $300,000 settlement is expected to be approved Monday by the City Council's Finance Committee.

Mary Strazz is the mother of the city's Deputy Planning and Development Commissioner Peter Strazzabosco, who refused to comment on the settlement.

Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford had no immediate comment on the case.

Email: fspielman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @fspielman
 



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