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January 24, 2011

NY man suing city after wife died waiting for ambulance

By John Marzulli
The New York Daily News

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — A Brooklyn man whose wife died of a heart attack after waiting more than 90 minutes for an ambulance during last month's blizzard will slam the city with a $20 million lawsuit on Monday.

Robert Davis said he called 911 around 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 27 to report his wife, Claire Reed, 63, was experiencing chest pains.

Davis, 58, said he made a second call before 8 a.m. as the pains became worse. His wife was screaming she was having a heart attack during the followup call - cries the 911 operator must have heard, Davis said.

An FDNY report obtained by The News indicates medics were assigned to the call at 9:07 a.m. - 97 minutes after Davis said he first called for help.

The medics arrived at the couple's basement apartment on Cortelyou Road in Flatbush three minutes later, but Reed had already stopped breathing and had no pulse, according to the FDNY report. "If they got there on time, I think she would have had a better chance," Davis said.

The FDNY report notes the ambulance crew responded to the scene with lights flashing and sirens on. It also indicates that the nearly 2 feet of snow that had fallen overnight wasn't a factor.

The "conditions causing delay" section is blank - including the box labeled "weather."

A Fire Department spokesman declined to comment on the incident, citing pending litigation.

City officials have conceded there was a backlog of 1,300 calls for emergency service in the wake of the monster storm.

Mayor Bloomberg, who has come under heavy criticism for being absent while his commissioners bungled the city's response to the blizzard, demoted Chief of the Emergency Medical Service John Peruggia.

"A 1-1/2-hour delay to respond to a life-and-death situation is inexcusable," said Davis' lawyer Sanford Rubenstein, who plans to notify the city of the wrongful death lawsuit Monday.

It's the second suit that attributes a blizzard-related death to the city's negligence. Last week the family of 75-year-old Laura Freeman blamed her death on a three-hour wait for an ambulance in Queens.

Davis, a guard who works for the Education Department, gave his wife mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while waiting for help. Medics and firefighters worked on Reed for 30 minutes before pronouncing her dead.

Adding to the indignity, Reed's body remained on the couch for a full day until a rep from the medical examiner's office arrived to verify her death was not suspicious. "I slept on the floor right beside my wife," Davis said.

Reed had suffered a disabling stroke five years ago. No autopsy was performed and her death was attributed to heart disease.

Republished with permission from the New York Daily News