Parents say unprepared, untrained paramedics caused death of son

By Jim Boyle | Sep 23, 2014

An empty oxygen tank and improper treatment by responding paramedics caused the wrongful death of a Philadelphia couple's son, according to a suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

June and Thomas Petroski, parents and administrators of the estate for their deceased son, Thomas Petroski, Jr., hold liable the two EMTs, the City of Philadelphia, Richard Davidson, executive chief of the Philadelphia Fire Department and Christopher Baldini, the paramedic captain. They seek punitive and compensatory damages on six counts relating to the Oct. 14, 2012, death of Petroski, Jr.

According to the complaint, Petroski began to experience an asthma attack at approximately 2:54 p.m. and told his mother to call 911. At 3 p.m., paramedics Sadie Smith and Michelle Roche arrived on the scene and entered the house on Aramingo Ave. When they attempted to give Petroski, Jr. oxygen, the EMTs realized the tank was empty. The claim says that the defendants asked a family member to retrieve a full tank from the ambulance and stood in place while waiting for the replacement as the victim's father assisted him with a nebulizer.

Once they received the tank, they placed the mask on Petroski, Jr.'s face, but the plastic was sucking up his nose. The complaint says that Smith and Roche then tried and failed to lift Petroski onto a stretcher. With the help of the victim's father and a neighbor, they finally managed to get the Petroski, Jr. out the front door and onto a gurney.

After placing Petroski, Jr. into the ambulance, Smith and Roche had to wait for the arrival of a fire truck in order to have a firefighter drive the ambulance to the hospital as they paramedics treated the victim. The claim alleges that during the treatment, Smith and Roche used a tube to ventilate his lungs, but their action caused air to escape his lungs and into his chest, increasing the pressure to his heart. The build-up became too much for the victim, and his heart went into pulseless electrical activity, where it stops beating but the electrical activity continues.

Petroski, Jr. was loaded into the ambulance at approximately 3:03 p.m. but did not leave for Episcopal Hospital until 3:16 p.m., the claim says. During that time, the paramedics did nothing to relieve the pressure in Petroski, Jr.'s chest, the claim says. Only after he arrived at the emergency room did a physician perform a thoracotomy, but by then the victim could not be resuscitated.

The plaintiffs say that the actions by Smith and Roche caused more harm to their son than if they had never been on the scene. They also accuse the City of Philadelphia and the supervisors of the paramedic squad for not properly training, preparing and monitoring the performances of the EMTs. According to the claim, the actions of the defendants deprived their son his Constitutional right to life and to be free of pain and suffering.

The Petroskis are represented by Timothy Hough of Jaffe & Hough in Philadelphia.

The federal case ID is 2:14-cv-05447-JS.

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