WASHINGTON (NBC Washington) - District firefighters were forced to take a man suffering from a stroke to a hospital in a fire truck Thursday night because the closest ambulance was seven miles away.
Thursday night's incident comes just days after an injured police officer waited almost 20 minutes for an ambulance.
Now, a top city leader is calling for immediate action, reported News4's Shomari Stone.
STATter911: Deputy Mayor wants to know why 10 ambulances were out of service when cop needed help.
The latest case involved a man in his 80s in a home in the 600 block of Atlantic Avenue SE. His wife called 911, saying the man was suffering from a stroke, said deputy fire chief Demetrios Vlassopoulos.
A fire engine staffed with paramedics responded to the scene within four minutes, and an ambulance was dispatched at the same time, Vlassopoulos told News4.
The closest ambulance, however, was coming from seven miles away - too far away to respond quickly in rush hour, Vlassopoulos said. A paramedic on the scene assessed the patient and decided he needed to go to a hospital immediately, so emergency personnel transported him in the fire truck.
This is the third time that an ambulance has been too far away to respond to a medical emergency in Southeast Washington this year, Stone reported.
District Councilman Tommy Wells told Stone that he would call a hearing into why it is taking so long for some ambulances to respond in the Southeast part of the city. "We do not expect that there are any delays" in ambulance service, he said.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the delayed ambulance response for an injured D.C. police officer is focusing on 10 ambulance units that were out of service at the time of the call. The man in charge of the investigation told News4 he’s trying to find out why the units were unavailable and why they were all out of service so close to the end of their shifts.
The initial calls for a pedestrian down came about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night -- just 30 minutes before the shift change.
“I want to make sure that in fact no one took themselves out of service without the proper authorization and especially when it came time to ending their shift early,” Deputy Mayor Paul Quander said. “That's unacceptable.”
Thirty-nine ambulance units were on duty at the time of the accident, Quander said, and some of the 10 that were out of service had legitimate reasons for not being able to respond to the call.
“One of the things I need to find out from this internal review is what happened to 10 of the units that were not available at that critical time,” Quander said. “Some of them may have been on runs to hospitals. Some of them may have been being cleaned. There are others I need to focus on to see whether or not they took themselves out of service without authorization."
The officer, identified as Sean Hickman, was eventually transported by a Prince George’s County ambulance with life-threatening injuries. He suffered multiple fractures to his left leg and has had two surgeries so far.
His recovery will be long, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.
“He's pretty badly injured,” she said. “He underwent 7-8 hours of surgery the first night and he has additional surgeries today.”
D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, who has oversight of the fire department, called the delay “unacceptable” and launched his own inquiry.
The driver of the car that hit Hickman was arrested and charged with assault on a police officer, police said. It’s the third time in two years Kevin Burno has been charged with assaulting a police officer. According to court records Burno, 24, was convicted in 2012 of assaulting a police officer during a domestic violence incident. He is awaiting trial on a second assault on an officer change that happened last month.
Burno made his first court appearance in Tuesday’s incident late Thursday afternoon. According to court documents, the officer signaled for Burno to turn on his lights. That's when Burno drove into the opposite lane of traffic and struck the officer, police said.
A witness told police Burno had been drinking "all day" prior to the incident, according to court documents, and police said he appeared incoherent at times and had trouble understanding officers. While in an interview room "he attempted to urinate on a heater, hit the same heater repeatedly with his hands, and then lay down on the floor."
At D.C. Superior Court following police processing, U.S. marshals searched Burno and found "six red zips of a green weed-like substance, and one plastic bag containing six white rock-like substances," according to court documents. They also found the key to the striking vehicle.