Md. man treated for critical injuries after declared dead

26-year-old man erroneously classified as "Priority 4" by responders


Editor's note: EMS1 columnist Mike McEvoy wrote back in 2007 how practically every few months a tale of someone wrongly presumed dead appears in the news. Check out the article, 'Dead Wrong.'

By Dave Statter
STATter911

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — A 26-year-old man trapped inside his burning Cadillac that had run into the back of another vehicle on I-95 in Laurel is being treated for critical injuries despite initially being declared dead on the scene. STATter911.com has learned firefighters from Prince George’s County, Maryland discovered the man was breathing while untangling his body from the wreckage of the burned out car. The vehicle had slammed against trees in the median strip near Route 198.

When Prince George's County firefighters extinguished the fire around 2:30 Sunday morning the man was declared a "Priority 4". Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department Chief Spokesman Mark Brady confirms this in a statement provided to STATter911.com, saying, "A preliminary patient assessment was made soon after the fire was extinguished, while the victim was still trapped within the wreckage, that he was priority 4 (deceased)."

On the emergency radio traffic from the incident, the incident commander tells a dispatcher about the "Priority 4" at 2:39 AM, 25 minutes after the incident was dispatced and 16 minutes after the first firefighters arrived on the scene.

Brady also confirms at 2:47 AM firefighters were asked by Maryland State Police to help in the removal of the body. About a minute later firefighters determined the man was still breathing.

In the radio traffic from the incident, a firefighter and the "South Side Command" have the following conversation:

Unidentified Firefighter: "We believe the patient is breathing we are yanking him out and bringing him up."

South Side Command: "You say the patient is breathing?"

Unidentified Firefighter: "We believe so."

South Side Command: "Okay."

The injured man, whose identity has not been released, was removed from the car and taken to a burn unit under the care of paramedics. At last word from police, he was being treated for life-threatening burns and other injuries.

Spokesman Brady confirms that a review is underway by the department's EMS Quality Assurance and Quality Improvement Program to determine what procedures were used to initially determine the man had expired. Brady said in his statement, "The Q&A program provides both a forum for continuous system improvement and a means to review significant events and is implemented under the auspices of the EMS Jurisdictional Program Medical Director."

Brady also points out, "The preliminary patient assessment was made under extremely challenging and less then ideal conditions."

A second vehicle involved in the crash was handled by a separate "North Side Command". Firefighters removed a woman who was trapped in an overturned SUV that had been struck by the Cadillac. That vehicle was not on fire. Police report the 46-year-old woman was treated and released at a local hospital.

Here is a timeline of the incident based on information provided by PGFD and times listed in the radio traffic:

2:14 – Call dispatched.

2:23 – First PGFD units report on the scene.

2:39 – South Side Command reports they have a "Priority 4".

2:47 – South Side Command reports they have been requested by Maryland State Police to extricate "the deceased".

2:48 - Firefighters report they believe the patient is breathing.

2:49 – Medic 715 from Montgomery County is dispatched to assist with the now breathing patient.

2:56 – Landing site being set up for helicopter.

3:04 – Patient transported by ground to burn unit.

 

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