30 Minutes Pass Before Ambulance Arrives to Help Passed-Out Intern at Mayoral Campaign Event

The first 911 call was made at 11:49 a.m., and an ambulance arrived at 12:21 p.m.

By Andrew Siff and Checkey Beckford
|  Wednesday, Jul 17, 2013  |  Updated 12:22 AM EDT
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After 911 was called to help an intern who fainted at a sweltering mayoral campaign event in Brooklyn Tuesday, more than 30 minutes passed before an ambulance arrived -- and that was after an apparent upgrade in the call attributed to the fire commissioner himself, according to an FDNY call log obtained by NBC 4 New York. Checkey Beckford reports.

NBC 4 New York

After 911 was called to help an intern who fainted at a sweltering mayoral campaign event in Brooklyn Tuesday, more than 30 minutes passed before an ambulance arrived -- and that was after an apparent upgrade in the call attributed to the fire commissioner himself, according to an FDNY call log obtained by NBC 4 New York. Checkey Beckford reports.

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After 911 was called to help an intern who fainted at a sweltering mayoral campaign event in Brooklyn Tuesday, more than 30 minutes passed before an ambulance arrived.

The FDNY initially blamed the delay on a 20 percent spike in emergency calls related to the heat wave, which is in its third day and is expected to last through Saturday. In another statement later, the department said the call was "appropriately tagged as not being a high-priority, life-threatening call."

The 18-year-old intern, who had just started working for Councilwoman Diana Reyna this summer, passed out and fell to the ground Tuesday morning during a mayoral campaign event for Christine Quinn in Greenpoint that was held to discuss the city's trash management plan.

NBC 4 New York witnessed the emergency.

After the woman fainted, Reyna's staff first called 911 at 11:49 a.m., and after no ambulance arrived, others kept calling. At one point, Quinn called the city's police commissioner, and told him help was needed.

An FDNY 911 call log obtained by NBC 4 New York shows the situation was upgraded 23 minutes after the initial 911 call, and an ambulance arrived at the scene eight minutes after the change. Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano's name was listed next to the upgrade order.

The FDNY insisted Cassano did not order the upgrade and did not know how his name appeared in the log. 

The FDNY's chief spokesman, Frank Gribbon, said earlier there were no basic life support ambulance units available in that area of Brooklyn because of high call volume. FDNY was on pace to log nearly 4,000 calls from midnight Monday to midnight Tuesday, compared with a typical 3,300. 

"Had this been a true life-threatening emergency, we would have had an advanced life support unit respond sooner," Gribbon said.

Meanwhile, the group tended to the woman, who remained on the ground. She was asked if she wanted to wait in an air-conditioned car, but she said she did not feel like she could stand.

Officials said the 911 call-taker was told that the woman was breathing, conscious and communicating, and that she may have hit her head but was alert. EMS calls are given a number based on the severity of injuries, with 1 being the most urgent. This situation was first labeled with a 5 before it was upgraded, according to the FDNY log. 

The FDNY also noted that a member of Quinn's police detail, who is an EMT, was treating her at the scene from the beginning. 

An ambulance arrived at 12:21 p.m. The emergency crew that did arrive was a volunteer service that serves primarily Jewish communities, and was not an FDNY ambulance.

The city's new 911 system -- which officials once boasted is capable of handling 50,000 calls per hour -- has been plagued with problems in recent weeks, including outages in the first week that it was launched, and accusations that an ambulance was delayed in getting to a 4-year-old girl hit by a car.

Quinn said the delay Tuesday was outrageous.

"It's inexcusable -- I do not know what caused this delay," Quinn said. "I can't explain it, and I'm gonna get to the bottom of it." 

The intern was taken to a hospital and was expected to be OK.

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