Crash victim was still alive

January 21, 2009 6:28:13 PM PST
It is their job to save lives in an emergency situation, but investigators say a Houston fire captain didn't try to help the victim of a car accident because the captain thought that victim was already dead. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The fire captain was fired for what happened at the accident scene and two other firefighters were suspended.

The victim's family is devastated. The family tells us they had no idea an investigation was even underway. And then it was a complete shock for them to hear the findings.

For six months, Melissa Manriquez's family had been waiting for any details on how she died, but the details contained in the fire department report were too much to bear.

"She always liked to have this candle on whenever Ethan was small," said her sister Maritza Manriquez.

The 18-year-old and mother of little Ethan, was driving home from work when police say she struck a curb and was ejected from her vehicle. Firefighters and medics did respond, but what the report says happened next devastates the family.

The report shows that a Captain Darla Reed was in charge of the scene and that after asking medics how the patient was doing, she determined Manriquez was dead. At one point, she advised a crew member he would not need to work on the patient, but that he should grab a white sheet instead.

Witnesses would then report that Captain Reed went back to the fire engine and got inside. All the while, there were visible signs Manriquez was not dead at all.

One of the more disturbing parts of the reports shows that when wrecker drivers were on the scene, they actually witnessed the young girl lying on the ground and they could see the white sheet moving up and down from her breathing.

It wasn't until another medic team arrived and found Manriquez still breathing that they transported her to a hospital. Despite their attempts to save her life, she would later die.

"It's just the hurt that she was moving and that she was breathing. That's what hurts," said sister Maritza.

In her explanation, Captain Reed said she did order crew members to work on the patient and that she even checked the victim's pulse herself. However, none of the witnesses saw any of that.

"The individual did not follow departmental policy," said Assistant Chief Omero Longoria of the Houston Fire Department.

In her disciplinary letter, Captain Reed's conduct was called "disgraceful?showing a callous disregard for the well-being of the public."

"If she would have done what she is supposed to do, I think this time I would have my daughter here in my house," said her father, Armando Manriquez.

We have attempted to reach Captain Reed for comment, but so far she has refused. Her attorney says he stands by the claims she made in the report.

In the meantime, the Houston Professional Firefighters Association released a statement saying, "The accident scene, like many that our firefighters and paramedics encounter, was tragic and chaotic. I believe that our firefighters did everything they thought they could at the time at the scene."

Captain Reed is appealing her termination. The names of the two other firefighters have not been released. They are serving out a 16-day suspension.

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