A child died in Southeast Washington on Thursday, when the closest available ambulance was about seven miles from the scene of the emergency.
That ambulance never made it to the child, and a fire engine started the trip to the hospital instead.
The boy was unconscious and not breathing when the fire engine arrived, D.C. police spokesman Hugh Carew said. But the boy was showing some signs of life, according to fire department spokesman Tim Wilson. The child died at Children’s National Medical Center. Neither fire nor police officials knew what medical emergency the child suffered or his age, although Wilson said he was younger than 8.
The D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department has faced several instances in which its ambulance fleet could not respond in a timely manner. In the past year, an injured police officer waited more than 20 minutes for an ambulance before a colleague eventually drove him to a hospital; a stabbing victim waited almost 30 minutes for an ambulance; and a toddler died after choking on grapes when the nearest ambulance was not sent to his aid.
This time, at 3:08 p.m. on Thursday, the emergency happened in the 4600 block of Hillside Road SE, Carew said. The nearest ambulance that was not involved in another call was seven miles away, Wilson said. The Office of Unified Communications, which dispatches emergency vehicles, directed that ambulance to go to the child and also sent a fire engine within about 2 minutes of receiving the call.