Family waited for EMS for 90 minutes

May 6, 2008 5:18:12 PM PDT
A woman desperate to get help for her sick nephew was forced to wait for nearly an hour and a half for emergency crews to arrive. During an emergency, minutes can feel like hours, but that was the case for a Houston woman who called 911 for help, and then waited for one hour and 24 minutes. An EMS crew was waiting near the home the entire time.

As Larry Ramirez slowly lost consciousness, an EMS unit was nearby. But, because of a little known county procedure, that crew waited a full hour before making contact with the victim.

Betty Hernandez can never forget what happened on Sunday. While she was inside, her nephew Larry Ramirez was outside acting erratically -- running and hitting, she says, even jumping off a second-story ledge. Fearing he was suffering from a drug overdose, she called 911.

"I called them and told them I have a nephew out here," Hernandez recalled. "I said, 'He's on drugs. I don't know what his intentions are, but I need help.'"

But 20 minutes after that call, Hernandez claims help didn't come. Still trying to control her nephew, she called again. After another 15 minutes passed, she called a third time, and then a fourth.

She told Eyewitness News, "I said, 'My nephew is foaming at the mouth. His eyes are bloodshot red. He's hardly breathing.' He couldn't talk. His tongue was twisted."

Hernandez says it was another 15 minutes before help arrived. Ramirez was rushed to the hospital but he died a day later.

Mark Smith with Harris County Emergency Services said, "I definitely sympathize with the family."

The county's emergency services District #1 admits that it did take more than an hour to get an ambulance to Ramirez. But under their EMS rules, if patients are combative, crews won't enter a scene until law enforcement first assesses it.

A spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff's office tells Eyewitness News that on Sunday all available officers in that district were responding to an armed robbery in progress and could not be moved. The EMS crew sat staged for a full hour near the house.

It's important for us to let law enforcement do their job, so then we could go in and do our job safely," Smith explained.

"I think they could have saved him," Hernandez said. "I know they could have saved him if they would have been here like they should have been."

Autopsy results on Larry Ramirez aren't back yet, so we don't know what caused his death. We are attempting to get a copy of Sunday's 911 calls; however, they have not yet been made available.

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