WASHINGTON — D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has expressed deep concern to the daughter of a 77-year-old man who says a firefighter on Saturday refused to help her father, who collapsed across the street from a firehouse and later died.
The firefighter told the daughter he couldn’t respond until being dispatched and instructed her to call 911, she told authorities. Officials said that if the allegations are true, it would be a serious breach of the public trust.
“When you go to a fire station, you should expect that someone there is going to help you,” said Pedro Ribeiro, the mayor’s spokesman. “This gentleman was not served. We need to answer why he was not served.” The spokesman said that if there is some protocol requiring dispatch before help is rendered, “then protocol be damned.”
The victim was identified as Medric Cecil Mills, a retired D.C. worker who lives about two miles from where he collapsed outside headquarters for Engine 26.
Authorities said that firefighters are being called in for questioning by Fire Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe, and that the investigation is being overseen by Paul A. Quander Jr., the deputy mayor for public safety and justice.
Ribeiro said Gray, D, called Mills’ daughter and “apologized for what appeared to be a dereliction. We’re going to investigate exactly what happened.”
The incident occurred about 2:30 p.m. in a shopping center across from the fire station. Officials said Mills’ daughter ran across Rhode Island Avenue and banged on the door of the station. A probationary firefighter trained in basic life support answered and reportedly told her he couldn’t help until she dialed 911 and he was dispatched to the call.
Tim Wilson, a spokesman for the fire department, said the firefighter contacted a supervisor, which is standard procedure when someone comes to a station seeking help. “That’s where it gets a bit muddied,” Wilson said, adding that officials are trying to figure out the sequence of events.
Officials said that to compound the problem, when the call was dispatched, an ambulance was sent to an address in Northwest instead of Northeast.
Edward C. Smith, the president of the firefighters union, said that Engine 26 was out on a call at the time of the incident, and that the probationary firefighter who answered the door was assigned to Truck 15. Smith that Truck 26 eventually arrived at the scene and treated Mills.
Authorities said they are trying to determine the sequence of calls and how much time elapsed between the time when Mills collapsed and he first received care. A D.C. police report says Mills died at MedStar Washington Hospital Center at 3:38 p.m.
“This shouldn’t have happened,” said Smith, the union head. “We need to find out why it happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. On behalf of all D.C. firefighters, I offer Mr. Mills’ family a sincere apology.”