Police: Ambulance crew failed to see man in crashed car

Associated Press

Flint — An ambulance crew that responded first to a car crash in Flint failed to notice a man in the car who later was discovered to be dead, police said.

Police Chief James Tolbert and ambulance company Mobile Medical Response told The Flint Journal the response is under investigation after a second ambulance crew more than an hour later found a body in the car.

“Why the first crew didn’t find a patient, I don’t know,” said Lynn Schuter, director of community relations for Mobile Medical Response.

Tolbert and Schuter said they didn’t know whether the man could have been alive when the first ambulance responded.

Emergency calls began shortly after 4 a.m. Saturday, when residents dialed 911 to report that a car had hit a tree. Tolbert said the police department couldn’t send anyone because officers were tied up at a homicide investigation and a separate shooting.

Instead, dispatch sent the ambulance following the initial 911 calls and Tolbert said the crew reported that no one was in the car. The report was then downgraded to a less-serious call of a single-car property damage accident involving a damaged vehicle.

“EMS reported back to us that there was nobody in the car and it was just an abandoned car,” Tolbert said. “That’s way-low priority.”

More 911 calls came in and dispatch told callers that an ambulance was on the way, officials said. A fifth 911 call about the crash was made by a neighbor at 5:39 a.m., Tolbert said, and the crew of a second ambulance found the man dead in the driver’s seat of the car.

Flint police arrived at the crash scene an hour and 55 minutes after the first 911 call was made, the department said.

Devon Johnson was watching television on Saturday when he heard the sound of the crash. He said he didn’t see anyone in the vehicle and called police, as well as a follow-up call.

“The ambulance showed up — flashed its lights in the car — neither one got out, and they pulled off,” Johnson said.

Schuter said she didn’t know whether any of the emergency medical technicians got out of the ambulances to check inside of the crashed car. She said crews for the ambulance company respond to crash scenes to be of service to victims, not to investigate or act as police.

“My understanding is that it’s a resource issue,” she said about why the ambulances were the first responders to the crash scene. “We are there for the patients.”