Report shows EMTs followed protocol in response to fatal Sugarloaf ski accident

Posted April 04, 2012, at 1:56 p.m.
Last modified April 04, 2012, at 8:33 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The state board that oversees the licensing for paramedics and emergency medical technicians has voted to dismiss the complaint by the widow of man who died after a ski accident at Sugarloaf earlier in January.

A report issued Wednesday by Jay Bradshaw, director of Maine Emergency Medical Services, details the findings of an investigation into the treatment and death of David Morse, 41 of Kingston, Nova Scotia.

Morse’s widow, Dana Morse, had claimed she was kicked out of the NorthStar Ambulance that was taking her husband to a hospital and left on the side of the road in a snowstorm.

The report states that after its investigation, the board voted to dismiss the complaint but that one of the paramedics involved would receive a letter of guidance in his personnel file regarding proper documentation.

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The report confirms that Dana Morse was left but apparently unintentionally at the side of the road as she attempted to move from the front seat to the patient compartment on the ambulance.

“It’s just an awful situation,” Bradshaw said Wednesday. He said Morse and his wife and their children were on a “mini-vacation in Maine and on the last day of that vacation.”

David Morse was injured when he lost control of his skis in soft snow on the side of the Timberline Trail and skied into a tree. It was snowing at the time of the ski accident, which occurred at about 3:45 p.m.

The ski patrol requested paramedics at 4:12 p.m., describing Morse’s injuries as serious, including a possible broken leg and internal bleeding.

Bradshaw said several factors, including the stormy weather, made treatment of Morse’s injuries likely unsuccessful.

“The nearest hospital that could have provided the type of surgical intervention that a patient like that requires was Lewiston,” Bradshaw said. “And the nature of his injuries were such that it wouldn’t have made any difference, unfortunately.”

The report details several breakdowns in communication and reveals that a member of the Sugarloaf Ski Patrol was asked to drive the ambulance and was at the wheel when Morse’s wife got out of the ambulance.

Dana Morse, a nurse practitioner, was concerned about the treatment her husband was receiving, the report stated.

“From the front seat, the patient’s wife could look into the rear of the ambulance and stated that she could see that emergency treatment was in progress, knew that this would not have a good outcome, and told the ski patroller that she needed to be in the back with her husband,” the report stated. “The ski patroller remembers hearing her express a need to be with children and her request to stop the vehicle. What is undisputed is that the patient’s wife exited the ambulance and the ambulance drove away.”

The report confirms Dana Morse’s account that she tried to catch the ambulance with her dying husband.

“As the ambulance continued down the access road, the patient’s wife chased after it and then flagged down two cars that were heading in the opposite direction (toward the mountain),” the report states. “The driver of the second car reported that the patient’s wife initially wanted to try and catch the ambulance, but it was snowing heavily and the driver said she did not recall seeing an ambulance. The patient’s wife then asked to go back to the first aid station, which is where she was taken.”

According to the report, the paramedics — upon realizing Dana Morse was no longer in the ambulance — contacted Franklin Memorial Hospital to notify them she was en route there with a friend.

When Dana Morse arrived at the hospital to inquire about her husband, a nurse called the paramedic base in Carrabassett Valley and handed the phone to her, according to the report. The paramedic informed Dana Morse that her husband had died en route to the hospital and that his body had been returned to the First Aid Station at Sugarloaf.

The Maine state medical examiner later determined that David Morse died from blunt force trauma to his chest.

An independent review of the investigation by Dr. Michael Baumann, an experienced emergency physician and interim chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Maine Medical Center, determined that NorthStar’s staff followed state protocol.

Baumann noted that “while some of the treatment provided could have been initiated sooner, it would not have affected the unfortunate outcome.”

Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, which owns and operates NorthStar, issued a statement Wednesday from President and CEO Rebecca Ryder.

She extended appreciation to the NorthStar crew at the ambulance base in Carrabassett Valley for “their professionalism and dedication throughout this difficult ordeal.”

To view the full report, click here.

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