EMS response questioned in Tornado death

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Apr 1, 2003
Planet Earth
EMS response questioned in tornado death

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/12/08

Gwinnett County Police on Monday were trying to determine how much time elapsed before police and fire department personnel arrived at the scene where a 19-year-old woman was killed by a falling tree Sunday afternoon.

Witnesses told WSB-TV that it took paramedics 30 minutes to respond and by the time they arrived, the woman had died.

The victim was identified as Astrid Hidalgo, the Gwinnett Medical Examiner's Office said.

According to a Gwinnett Fire Department press release, she was walking near the entrance of the Chatelaine Park Apartments in Duluth when she was hit by the top of a tree that snapped and fell. The tree apparently fell due to Sunday's high winds.

Gwinnett Police Cpl. and spokeswoman Illana Spellman said that at 4:30 p.m., both the 911 computer system and radio system went down. Spellman said she did not know the reason, but that Sunday's blustery weather could have been a factor.

Because the computer and radio systems went down, police do not yet know when the initial 911 call about Hidalgo came in, Spellman said.

She said police were dispatched at 4:42 and arrived at 4:54.

Gwinnett Fire Capt. and spokesman Thomas Rutledge said fire trucks and an ambulance were dispatched at 4:51 p.m. and arrived at 5 p.m. When they reached the apartment complex, the woman was dead.

Spellman and Rutledge said the response times from the time of the dispatches were standard. Spellman said she did not know why police received a dispatch call before the fire department.

"A lot of the stuff — the time line and what happened and why, we're still looking into all that," she said.
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