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D.C. Officials Still Investigating Ambulance Absence

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WASHINGTON (AP) — District of Columbia officials are continuing to investigate whether some fire department rescue services were inappropriately out of service at a time when a police officer was seriously injured in a hit-and-run crash, Deputy Mayor Paul Quander said Friday.

An ambulance from neighboring Prince George’s County had to be called to assist the injured officer Tuesday night because no D.C. fire department ambulance was immediately available to respond. The fire and emergency medical services department ordinarily has 39 transport units, but when the call for service came in, 10 were out of service.

Quander said he’s been unable to account for “a couple” of those ambulances and is trying to determine whether they were actually in service at the time and should have been able to respond. Councilmember Tommy Wells, who chairs the public safety committee, is also investigating.

“I want to see documents, I want to see data. I want to see exactly what was written so that I can know precisely how many units we had, why they were out of service,” Quander said.

The department is now ensuring that at least two reserve rescue vehicles will be in place in the event an ambulance is being repaired or needs to be taken out of service. That backup system has now been implemented but was not available in time to help with Tuesday’s collision.

“If there’s responsibility at management, at supervision or the lowest level, everybody will be held accountable,” Quander said at a news conference outside the fire department. “We want to make sure we have the best pre-hospitalization care that we can provide. That is our goal.”

The officer was on his motor scooter Tuesday night when he was struck by a driver in a white Lexus, who then sped away, police said.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the officer had serious injuries and has a long recovery period ahead of him. Quander said police were investigating whether the driver, who has since been arrested, intended to strike the officer. Lanier said she couldn’t comment because the case is pending. Police have arrested Kevin Burno, 24, on a charge of a felony assault on a police officer.

Burno’s lawyer didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.

Fire officials also defended the decision to transport a stroke patient in a fire truck Thursday, saying the man required immediate care and that the first responders determined it to be a “load and go” situation.

Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe said the absence of an ambulance illustrated that the department was a “tipping point” in terms of resources. But he said citizens could still have confidence in the department.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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