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Colorado Family Billed $3K After Man Dies in Broken Ambulance

Limon family sue city for wrongful death

JEMS Staff

LIMON, Colorado – KDVR reports that the family of a Limon man who died after the ambulance he was riding in broke down during transport between two hospitals, plan to sue the city that operates the service.

In a notice of claim, the attorney for Lonnie Hendrickson’s family informed the City of Limon that he intends to file a legal complaint for Hendrickson’s “wrongful death” in September 2019.

The claim states, “While Mr. Hendrickson was in a life-threatening condition, the ambulance stalled en route to Swedish Medical Center. During this time, essential and vital medical care was unable to be provided to Mr. Hendrickson and he expired.”

Hendrickson was believed to be sick with the flu.  He had been throwing up for days and was experiencing worsening back pain.

Doctors at Keefe Memorial Hospital decided to transfer Hendrickson to a Denver-area hospital for a higher level of care.

The method of transport was discussed, and it was agreed to use an ACLS ground service since transport by air was grounded due to an incoming weather front.

The ambulance broke down approximately 120 miles into the trip in Strasburg.

Rob Handley, director of the Limon Ambulance Service, told KDVR that the crew believed they had blown a radiator hose.

Hadley said that during his time a director he had never seen an ambulance break down during a transport.

Hendrickson was stable at the time.

The ambulance crew declined to transfer Hendrickson to another company’s ambulance and chose to wait approximately 30 minutes for a second Limon Ambulance Service ambulance to respond, with lights and siren, to their location.

Handley said the crew thought is was in the best interest of the patient to continue instead of switching crews. “I don’t think it would have made any difference if we got there 30 minutes faster or 45 minutes or an hour faster,” Handley told KDVR.

An autopsy report mentions the ambulance break down when explaining Hendrickson’s last diagnosis.

According to the autopsy, Hendrickson died of “acute cardiac arrest associated with three days of intractable nausea and vomiting from an apparent upper gastrointestinal illness.” The report said hypertensive cardiovascular disease contributed to his death.

Handley told KDVR that his best estimate is that Hendrickson’s condition deteriorated just as the second ambulance arrived or shortly after. There were no details given on the care provided in the news story.

Billie Cozart, one of Hendrickson’s daughters, said she received a bill totaling more than $3,000 for her father’s transport.