A D.C. Fire Department spokesman said yesterday that "human error" was to blame for dispatching an ambulance to a Northwest address instead of the Northeast bank where a 68-year-old woman had collapsed. The woman later died.

The spokesman also said that because of a shortage of personnel yesterday, city ambulance workers untrained in advanced life support were dispatched to the aid of a Southwest man who was having difficulty breathing. He also died.

The deaths raised to 10 the number of incidents reported in the past year in which emergency teams were slow or arrived with inadequate equipment to aid people who later died.

Wilson Miles Cary, 76, of 901 Sixth St. SW, was dead on arrival at George Washington University Hospital yesterday morning, according to Christine Lubiak, a hospital spokeswoman.

Cary suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, she said, but fire officials said a call to their emergency center said the man was "having difficulty breathing." The official cause of death had not been determined late yesterday.

A spokesman for the D.C. Fire Department, which operates the ambulance service, said paramedics were not available for the call because of a shortage of personnel yesterday.

On Tuesday Frances Campbell of 5901 East Capitol St. NE, died after she collapsed in a bank at Eighth and H streets NE, and an ambulance was sent to the wrong address.

Both deaths again raised concerns about the efficiency of the city's troubled ambulance service. Fire department officials have maintained in the past that no link has been made between the ambulance service and the deaths, but in several of the cases officials disciplined ambulance workers.

Capt. Theodore Holmes, a fire department spokesman, cited "human error" in dispatching an ambulance in the Campbell case. He said a dispatcher trainee on the job since June "inadvertently put down Northwest instead of Northeast" in the 2:48 p.m. call. It took the ambulance about 15 minutes to reach the bank, he said.

"It can happen," Holmes said of the error. "It's rare . . . . We have to be more vigilant and provide a little tighter supervision to see that this doesn't happen."

But Campbell's son William said, "We have to be more vigilant . . . . "

-- Capt. Theodore Holmes

"There's been enough time to get this {ambulance service} straightened out. We're probably going to secure the services of an attorney. Something has to be done. Our mother had a lot of confidence in this city and in its systems."

In the case of Wilson Cary, one of the city's five advanced life-support units staffed by paramedics normally would have responded to the call. But because of "a lack of manpower -- paramedics," the ambulance dispatched was a basic unit, Holmes said.

"We have a priority system which says if you have certain criteria, you prioritize a call and . . . in this instance, because it was a cardiac condition, that would mean sending a medic unit, but we didn't have one available to dispatch within the time frame needed. We sent a basic unit," said Holmes.

Basic units are staffed by emergency medical technicians trained in such skills as first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, splinting, child delivery and extricating accident victims, but lacking advanced support training. Paramedics are trained to operate electrocardiographs, administer some medications, insert intravenous lines and defibrillate irregular heartbeats.

Holmes said the ambulance responding to the call for Cary normally carried paramedics, but that absenteeism because of sickness and vacations caused the shortage of paramedics.

Of the city's 21 ambulances, 16 are equipped to provide just basic life support, leaving five with paramedics. Most cities of comparable size have more advanced life-support units. Baltimore has 16 ambulances and San Francisco has 10 with advanced equipment. Nine of Boston's 12 ambulances carry advanced equipment.