Seconds after EMTs Renee Byron, 33, and Suzette Headley-Maurice, 48, hurriedly pulled the man out — who was lying on a stretcher — from the back of the ambulance, the vehicle exploded on Charles Street North in Gasparillo.
The ambulance which belongs to Global Medical Response of Trinidad and Tobago (GMRTT) was completely destroyed. Thousands of dollars worth of medical equipment including a cardiac monitor, which by itself is worth $300,000, and medical documents were destroyed in the flames. The EMTs also lost their personal belongings including identification cards, driving permits, bank cards and car keys.
Police said the ambulance exploded outside the Charles Street North, Gasparillo home of the patient’s sister. The report said that the man was visiting his sister when he started to complain of severe chest pains. His sister contacted the Emergency Health Services (EHS) and the ambulance, driven by Byron, was despatched.
The man was placed in the ambulance when a bystander observed smoke coming from the bonnet and raised an alarm. As the ambulance quickly filled with smoke, Byron and Headley- Maurice quickly went into the ambulance and dragged out the stretcher on which the man lay, his arms already ‘hooked up’ to life monitors in the vehicle.
Officers from the Gasparillo Police Station along with a fire tender arrived on the scene and the fire was doused. The ambulance was quickly towed away to an unknown location.
Another ambulance was called in and the patient was transported to the San Fernando General Hospital where up to yesterday reports said he remained warded.
When Newsday visited the San Fernando home of Bryon, her mother Susan Byron said her daughter was too distraught to speak about the near death experience. “My child could have been killed. This is the second near death experience she had while on duty. Only last week Wednesday, she and another EMT suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning and had to be taken to hospital for treatment. They inhaled fumes which was entering the ambulance,” Mrs Byron said.
GRMTT Chief Executive Officer Paul Anderson confirmed the incident saying he was relieved there were no injuries. He refused to disclose the location of the burnt ambulance.
“It is being evaluated now. Insurance investigations have to be done. It has to be secured. There were no injuries, the patient was not compromised or involved in any way. Another ambulance came and took the gentleman to the hospital so it did not impact on his care in any way,” Anderson said.
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan said he was unaware of the fire but added that the entire ambulance system is being reviewed. A National Ambulance Authority is expected to be put in place next January.
“I am putting an ambulance system in place so then we would use the Regional Health Authorities (RHA) they would be running the ambulance service. There would be a national ambulance authority so we might not have use for the GRMTT. Each RHA will have an ambulance service. This could be in place by January,” Khan said.