Councilman to hold hearing on ambulance staffing, response to accident

The chairman of the D.C. Council’s public safety committee said he will call top fire officials before his panel within two weeks to determine why no city ambulances were available for a District police officer who was hit by a car on Tuesday.

Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), said that should give the administration enough time to investigate “and get to the bottom of what happened.” He said, “Clearly there was no ambulance available. I need to understand why.”

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Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for the D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, said the investigation has just begun into the response to the accident in Southeast Washington, which left an eight-year veteran seriously injured with a badly broken left leg.

A D.C. fire engine with an advanced life-support paramedic aboard responded to the scene, at 46th and A streets Southeast, within a few minutes of the 6:30 p.m. crash. But of the 39 District ambulances on the street, none were available, officials said. Help was summoned from Prince George’s County, and an ambulance arrived 15 to 18 minutes after the first 911 call.

District fire and police union officials were angry and blamed it on mismanagement.

The gap in service may have come because as many as 10 ambulances scheduled to work Tuesday evening were not in service toward the end of the 7 p.m. shift, according to two city officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the pending investigation.

At least one crew “had no response as to why they were off, and no valid reason for being out,” one of the officials said.

The head of the firefighters union said that some ambulances may have been sidelined for mechanical problems or to be cleaned.

Wells said he wants to know whether “employees did not do what they’re supposed to do,” or if there were legitimate reasons for the unavailability of ambulances. He said that as many as six crews were out of service.

“These are ambulances that could have responded,” Wells said, adding that the officer was was in surgery most of Thursday.

D.C. police have charged three people in the accident, including the alleged driver, Kevin Burno, 24, of Southeast, who faces a charge of felony assault on a police officer. The passengers each were charged with obstruction and alcohol-related offenses.

 
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