Wo­man wakes up in morgue

Depart­ment calls for in­ves­ti­ga­tion into paramedics

Sowetan - - Front Page - By Graeme Hosken

De­clared dead after a fa­tal car ac­ci­dent, a Gaut­eng wo­man was dis­cov­ered alive inside a mor­tu­ary fridge by foren­sic of­fi­cers.

The wo­man was trav­el­ling along the P111 out­side Car­letonville dur­ing the early hours of last Sun­day, when the driver of the car lost con­trol of the ve­hi­cle, which rolled.

Two other oc­cu­pants who were in the car were killed.

The mis-dec­la­ra­tion, done by Dis­tress As­sist am­bu­lance ser­vice paramedics, is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the Gaut­eng health depart­ment.

The ac­ci­dent was also at­tended by ER24 paramedics who de­clared the other two pa­tients dead.

A Car­letonville mor­tu­ary source said his col­leagues had loaded the bod­ies in the fridges and were fill­ing in forms when one re­turned to check on them.

“When he pulled out the wo­man’s body, he saw that she was breath­ing.”

He said his col­league im­me­di­ately rushed her to a hos­pi­tal in Car­letonville.

“She was then trans­ferred to Ler­a­tong Hos­pi­tal in Krugers­dorp where she is cur­rently.”

He said they could not un­der­stand how she had been de­clared dead.

“Paramedics are trained to de­ter­mine death, not us. You never ex­pect to open a fridge and find some­one there alive. Can you im­age if we had be­gun the au­topsy and killed her.”

Dis­tress Alert op­er­a­tions man­ager, Ger­rit Brad­nick, con­firmed their paramedics had de­clared the wo­man dead.

He said their paramedics re­ceived a call about the ac­ci­dent, and were told that an am­bu­lance from a dif­fer­ent ser­vice had col­lided with the ve­hi­cle which had rolled in an ear­lier ac­ci­dent and was stuck in the mid­dle of the road

“The paramedics from the am­bu­lance which was in­volved in the ac­ci­dent found the bod­ies out­side the ve­hi­cle. They were ejected when the ve­hi­cle first rolled.”

Brad­nick, who also re­sponded to the scene, said he, along with the other paramedics, started to do scene safety.

“The other paramedics had al­ready done pri­mary checks to see who was in­jured and who was not. They had al­ready cov­ered the bod­ies of the dead.”

He said be­cause of the chaos he called his am­bu­lance crew for as­sis­tance.

Brad­nick added that after the in­jured were trans­ported to hos­pi­tal, they re­alised no one had done the pa­per­work on the bod­ies.

“My team did the pa­per­work on two of the bod­ies. This lady had se­vere and mul­ti­ple in­juries. The in­juries, es­pe­cially to her head, were so bad you could not work out her age or size.”

He said they fol­lowed all the pro­to­cols to check for life, in­clud­ing look­ing for signs of a pulse and breath­ing.

“A num­ber of things can in­flu­ence the de­tec­tion of life, in­clud­ing cold, al­co­hol, drugs and in­juries.

“Equip­ment used to de­ter­mine life showed no form of life on the wo­man.”

Brad­nick said when they were alerted by the hos­pi­tal in Car­letonville that the wo­man was alive, they im­me­di­ately be­gan an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“This did not hap­pen be­cause our paramedics are not prop­erly trained. There is no proof of any neg­li­gence by our crew. An ad­vanced life sup­port paramedic from an­other am­bu­lance ser­vice wit­nessed the death dec­la­ra­tion form.”

He said no paramedic set out to de­lib­er­ately de­clare some­one dead.

Brad­nick said they would co-op­er­ate with any in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Gaut­eng foren­sic pathol­ogy ser­vices CEO Paul Morule con­firmed the depart­ment was con­duct­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and that of­fi­cials were in con­tact with the fam­ily of the wo­man who was in hos­pi­tal.

“The out­come of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be re­ported to the reg­u­la­tory body. It is not the duty of foren­sic pathol­ogy of­fi­cers to de­clare death. Their role by law is to col­lect the bod­ies and trans­port them.”

The wo­man was trans­ported to the mor­tu­ary after she was knocked down by a car.

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