Chief: Fire truck crew made honest mistake in delayed response to heart attack victim

- D.C.’s fire chief is responding to FOX 5’s story about an engine crew's mistake involving a 67-year-old man who died after going into cardiac arrest.

In an interview on Wednesday, D.C. Fire and EMS Chief Gregory Dean told FOX 5 he is making some changes after what happened with Jackson and he is ordering all units to confirm addresses with the dispatchers as they pull up on the scene.

On Sunday, Albert Jackson waited 19 minutes for first responders to arrive at his home.

It all started at 3:56 p.m. when Jackson’s wife, Gloria, called 911 to say her husband was unconscious and needed help. The call was made from his home on 60th Street in Northeast D.C.

At 4:02 p.m., Truck 17 pulled onto the street, but it was then waived off by D.C. police who had a man on the ground in handcuffs. However, that was not the person who they were called out for.

"When they came across MPD, they had a person in custody in the same block,” said Chief Dean. “MPD said, ‘Hey, we don't need you.’ That's when they made the assumption without confirming the location.”

Engine 8, which was also put on the call, radioed the dispatcher: "Engine 8 communications – Truck 17 advised that MPD is on the scene and that they are not needed. Do you need Engine 8 to keep responding?”

We now know all units responding were put in service until Gloria Jackson made a second call at 4:06 p.m. asking where the help was.

And at 4:09 p.m., help was sent again.

Nearly 19 minutes went by before a paramedic got on the scene at 4:15 p.m. and began emergency medical care. But Jackson was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Although it appears the crew on the truck made a mistake, they could be disciplined for not making absolutely sure they were on the right call.

"What I see is it was an honest mistake,” said Dean. “They went to the location, they saw the police, they made that assumption -- bad assumption -- but they made that assumption and they made a decision. It was the wrong decision and we have some responsibilities and they have some responsibilities.”

Albert Jackson was a 67-year-old retired construction foreman with Joy Construction. He had recently been sick and had just come home from the hospital on New Year’s Eve.

His wife said she called 911 when she saw he was getting sick again.

The radio dispatch is not the only way firefighters get their information. It is also sent in print on a terminal inside the truck. Now, the chief said they will be making a change.

"We are going to increase the information that they get to help them in their decision making,” said Chief Dean.

Gloria Jackson said she knew nothing about what happened with Truck 17 coming into the block until we told her. She also told us she has had to call for help several times recently and has never had an issue with the response from D.C. Fire and EMS.

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