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Ambulance Delay Sparks Investigation Pleas in DC | News

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Ambulance Delay Sparks Investigation Pleas in DC

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) -- DC's ambulance service is coming under fire again.

This time, a City Councilman is calling for a full investigation as to why an ambulance carrying a critically injured patient shut down on a highway .

The carjacking suspect who was shot by police died at the hospital.

Ambulance 19, carrying 34-year-old Nathaniel McRae never made it to the hospital. That's because it shutdown on 295 for an emissions standard called a 'regen process'

A second ambulance had to be called but the delay cost the patient 5-7 minutes.

"That's unacceptable, seconds count.'

Firefighters Union President Ed Smith says newer model ambulances in the DC fleet are outfitted with a system to reduce diesel smoke

It's a 4 level warning system that goes from orange to red, and solid to flashing lights before the engine shuts off.

There are usually hours between level one and three to clean the emissions system.

But that wasn't the case for ambulance 19.
According to Smith, the first 2 warnings never sounded.

This particular vehicle went to the third stage and left little time. It slowed to a crawl and the engine subsequently shut down.

And what's disturbing, is that it shouldn't have been a surprise.

"This issue has been reported three times prior to the incident yesterday."

But the critical question, did the 5-7 minute delay cost the patient his life?

"Regardless of injuries everyone deserves the same level of care and timely response.

DC Councilman Tommy Wells leads the judiciary and public safety committee. He's called for a full investigation. "this is unacceptable and we need to find out what happened so this doesn't happen again. These newer ambulances are only about three years old."

The Environmental Protection Agency gave flexibility for engine fire trucks and ambulances for this regen process. But DC Fire went ahead and ordered 10 more newer model ambulances. They will arrive this summer.

Smith, "We've had numerous failures and this is another embarrassing incident where it cost timely response and care."

DC Fire and E-M-S has not responded to our repeated calls for comment.

Here is the EPA's response to the incident: 

"A properly working and maintained vehicle should not shut down without adequate warning, and pollution control equipment does not have this general impact - as evidenced by the millions of vehicles on the road that have been operating with this technology for years. That said, to provide additional flexibility to municipalities and emergency responders, EPA last year established an exemption for new and in-use emergency vehicles that allows manufacturers and their authorized dealers to install modifications to emissions control systems so they can be operated as intended, without reduced performance during emergency situations."

EPA coordinated closely with engine manufacturers as well as representatives of the emergency services on development of the emergency vehicle rule, and we will continue this coordination as it is put into place. EPA is also working to ensure that requests for assistance from manufacturers, vehicle owners or operators can take advantage of this flexibility. If any manufacturer of vehicle owner or operator is unfamiliar with its options under our new rule, it should contact EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality (email to OTAQ@epa.gov) for more information.