Family has many questions about ambulance accident
© Submitted photo
Bridget Small and her husband Kenneth are seen in this recent photo. Mrs. Small died three days after being in an accident in an ambulance while being transported from St. John's to Corner Brook.
CORNER BROOK — As one north shore family deals with the grief of losing a wife and mother, they’re also looking for answers about what happened in the days preceding her death.
Bridget Small was being transported by ambulance from St. John’s back to the west coast on Oct. 1. Just outside Whitbourne, the Reliable Ambulance vehicle was involved in an accident.
Mrs. Small had been suffering from terminal cancer
“Mom’s life was getting short and so they were trying to get her back to Corner Brook as soon as possible,” said her son Kerry Small from his home in Cox’s Cove on Tuesday.
Kenneth Small was travelling in the ambulance with his wife and later told his son that just outside Whitbourne the ambulance hit a pothole, causing the vehicle to crash.
Kenneth and Mrs. Small, along with the paramedics onboard the ambulance, were taken to the clinic in Whitbourne.
Mrs. Small was later transported back to St. John’s. Her son said she suffered a broken arm in the accident, lost a lot of blood and was bruised over her entire body. She died three days later in St. John’s at the age of 63.
Kerry’s not saying the accident caused her death, but he does wonder if it contributed to it.
“It took the good out of my mom,” he said. “I’m not saying my mom would still be here today, but you don’t know.”
His sister, Sherri-Lynn Ruth, said “I think we would still have our mom here if it weren’t for the accident and the trauma that it brought her.”
Along with the questions about what happened to their mom, Kerry has a few more about the treatment their dad received.
Once his wife was en route to St. John’s on another ambulance, Kenneth, 63, was left to fend for himself.
“They left me there like a fool,” said Kenneth.
Not knowing what to do he called his son, but when unable to reach him left a message with a friend saying he was in Whitbourne and needed a ride.
Worried about his wife and not knowing what else to do, Kenneth headed for the highway. As he was walking along, a woman stopped and asked him where he was going. She picked him up and suggested he go to a nearby garage and get a cup of tea to calm his nerves.
“Before I even got my tea she was back again and took me right to emergency (in St. John’s),” said Kenneth. “It wasn’t a good experience. I was walking along and walking along and she just happened to be good enough to stop and pick me up.”
Kerry said at the hospital the next day, a woman — he’s not sure if she worked with the ambulance or the hospital — told his father that a taxi had been sent out for him, but he wasn’t there when it arrived more than an hour later.
“Come on now — an hour and a half later and it’s only a 45-minute drive from Whitbourne,” said Kerry.
“They should have been there and picked him up and gone.”
Kerry said anything could have happened to his father, who has some issues with his legs, after being left in Whitbourne. He said his father suffered a bruise on his arm and hit his head against the ambulance in the crash and had no concept of where he was.
“He could have had a concussion, he could have had anything,” Kerry said.
It wasn’t until a couple days after the accident that he was checked out by medical personnel, and by then his blood pressure was high.
Kerry said the family will do all it can to get answers about what happened. On Tuesday, his wife contacted Reliable Ambulance and was told a tie rod cracked, causing the tire to fall off.
“That’s not normal,” he said.
In a statement from Western Health following the accident, the health authority said the 2004 Crestline ambulance is regularly inspected and maintained and that the latest inspection occurred two weeks before. It also said the ambulance was being towed to Corner Brook for an investigation into how the failure occurred.
When contacted for an update on the investigation, the health authority responded by email.
“Western Health, along with Motor Vehicle Division completed the inspection of the ambulance involved in the accident,” the email said. “The investigation report has not yet been received from Motor Vehicle Division.”
Meanwhile, Kerry said his family is considering getting a lawyer.
“It’s pathetic what they did to my mom and dad. It’s just shocking.”