2 Mich. firefighters suspended over delayed response to EMS call

Officials are investigating the delay, and the patient died several hours after the crew was on scene


Jim Kasuba
The News Herald

FLAT ROCK, Mich. — Two Flat Rock firefighters remain suspended while an investigation continues into why it took so long for them to respond to an emergency medical call.

The person who suffered the medical emergency later died, although the victim's death is unrelated to the city's investigation, which is focusing on their delayed response.

Mayor Mark Hammond said he is limited as to how much he can say about the chain of events because he doesn't want to taint the investigation being conducted by Fire Chief James Katona.

However, he can confirm that one full-time firefighter and one part-time firefighter were suspended after this incident, which occurred in June.

For many years, the Flat Rock Fire Department was composed of a full-time fire chief and all paid-on-call, part-time firefighters.

However, the department now has a mix of full-time and part-time firefighters, which recently grew.

According to Hammond, when Katona took over as chief in January of 2020, he set out to address massive overtime issues and one way of doing that was to hire more full-time firefighters. Two additional firefighters were hired, adding to the six full-time firefighters on the roster.

The department now has eight full-time and eight paid-on-call firefighters who provide 24/7 emergency response coverage in the city. When Flat Rock firefighters are tied up on a call and another call for service comes in and no one else is available, they, like other neighboring departments, invoke mutual aid.

Without going into specifics, the mayor said that the two firefighters in question were both on duty when a call came in for emergency service. The person who made the call called back again after it took too long for an ambulance to arrive. Those firefighters responded to the second call.

"They missed the (first) call," Hammond said. "For whatever reason, there was a delay. When the dispatcher called again, they said they just got the call."

After responding to the call and tending to the individual, they cleared the scene. Hammond said it was his understanding that the person declined transport, which is their right to do.

Later that day, a different crew was dispatched for a death investigation. Hammond said a neighbor went to the victim's apartment and found the person dead. He said this occurred approximately five to six hours after the first crew responded to the scene.

Although this happened in June, the mayor said there was no effort to "cover it up." He said that he always tries to be as transparent as possible, but due process has to be allowed to take place. He said revealing too much information about this case could hamper multiple investigations.

He said he could not reveal which other agencies are investigating this case, but that his obligations lie with the city investigation. Hammond said for a variety of reasons the investigation is going slower than expected, but he doesn't want to exert any pressure to hurry it along.

"I'm not pushing this investigation because I want it done right," Hammond said, adding that once the investigation has been completed, the city will reveal its findings.

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(c)2022 The News Herald, Southgate, Mich.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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