The State of Maine’s division of Emergency Medical Services has completed its investigation into the death of a skier on January 12, 2012, and cleared the ambulance service and paramedics involved of any wrongdoing.
This is the second investigation to similarly clear personnel of any wrongdoing. The Carabassett Valley Police Department issued its report in March, 2012 finding no criminal wrongdoing.
The bizarre story began when David Morse struck a tree while skiing with his family at the Sugarloaf Ski Area, suffering serious chest trauma. He was promptly treated by the ski patrol who got him down the hill to the first aid room in 12 minutes. Due to a blizzard, a helicopter evacuation was not possible, and a Northstar ambulance was called to transport him to the closest hospital in Farmington, roughly 50 miles away.
During the course of treating and packaging Morse, he coded. Morse’s widow, Dana, a nurse, assisted with some of his treatment and rode in the front seat of the ambulance. However, as the journey began she asked repeatedly to ride in the back, and claimed that the driver finally stopped the vehicle so she could move. She said that when she exited the front passenger’s seat, the vehicle sped off without her.
Dana claimed she had to flag down a car, went back to the ski resort to get her car, and then went to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington. Once at the hospital, Dana discovered that the ambulance had not brought David in. A nurse at the hospital contacted the paramedics and learned that because they concluded that David had died en route, the ambulance had taken the body back to the ski area.
The state’s investigation disclosed that the driver of the ambulance was not a paramedic, but rather a member of the ski patrol. The report found no protocol violations in the care rendered to David, or in the decisions made by the ambulance crew.
According to the Kennebec Journal, Jay Bradshaw, director of Maine’s division of Emergency Medical Services, told reporters that Morse’s death was an unavoidable tragedy under the circumstances, and that personnel did all they could to save his life.
Bradshaw said that it was impossible for investigators to know for certain what was said between Dana and the ski patroller driving the ambulance that led to her being dropped off. The police department’s investigation concluded that Dana asked to be let out of the vehicle.
Bradshaw was quoted as saying “It’s awful that this happened, but there is nothing that speaks to that in Maine EMS protocols.”
Here is a link to the prior blog about Maine’s EMS protocols that allow CPR to be stopped after 20 minutes.
Here is a copy of the state report. It does an excellent job of reciting the facts of this truly challenging, tragic case. 120404022456_NorthStar Investigation Report (Public)