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Official: Stuck elevator did not hinder efforts to revive MCI inmate

March 19, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | janeth@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — An ambulance crew continued to give CPR to an inmate in the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown last Thursday while they were stuck in an elevator at the prison for — at most — 5 to 7 minutes, the ambulance company chief said Tuesday.

The inmate, a 58-year-old man who had been convicted in Montgomery County, Md., was pronounced dead at Meritus Medical Center, Mark A. Vernarelli, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Tuesday.

The cause of death for the inmate was a heart attack, specifically a ruptured myocardial infarction, said Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for Maryland’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The manner of death was natural causes, meaning there was no foul play, he said.

“Our Internal Investigative Unit was told by the medical examiner’s office that he had a massive heart attack, which left him with no heartbeat upon his collapse in the housing unit on March 14,” Vernarelli wrote in a March 18 email to The Herald-Mail.

According to a 911 supervisor with Washington County Emergency Services, Boonsboro Ambulance & Rescue Services was dispatched to MCI-H at 2:10 p.m. Thursday for a medical call.

Boonsboro Ambulance Chief Morgan Boyd said he was not on the March 14 call, but spoke to crew members who were.

Boyd said the ambulance was called for a patient in cardiac arrest.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Vernarelli said prison staff performed CPR on the inmate from the “get-go.”

“Correctional and medical staff did everything they could to revive the man,” Vernarelli wrote in his email.

In transporting the inmate out of the prison, the ambulance crew and patient became stuck in an elevator, Boyd said. Boyd said he believed all four crew members were in the elevator with the patient. There is usually at least one correctional officer in the elevator as well, he said.

The elevator dropped about 3 feet and then it stopped, Boyd said.

They were stuck in the elevator — at most — 5 to 7 minutes, Boyd said.

Boyd said it was his understanding that the prison’s safety coordinator was at the elevator when it became stuck and retrieved the keys to open the elevator.

“When the elevators doors did not open, emergency keys were brought to the scene (within a couple of minutes), the doors were opened, and staff and paramedics carried him out of the facility,” Vernarelli said in his March 18 email.

In a March 19 email, Vernarelli wrote, “When the elevator became stuck, CPR continued. Correctional staff opened the elevator doors and unlocked the stairwell grates within minutes. The entire incident — including carrying the man down the steps to the ambulance — took approximately seven to 10 minutes. It did not interrupt the tremendous lifesaving efforts on the part of the staff and paramedics.”

When the elevator’s doors were opened, the crew was able to slide the stretcher out of the elevator and climb out, Boyd said.

While carrying the stretcher down the stairs, from the second floor, the crew took breaks at landings to perform CPR, he said. Boyd did not know how many landings there were.

The elevator will remain out of service until a contractor and correctional maintenance staff determine the cause of the problem and fix it, Vernarelli said.

The inmate had been serving 45 years for homicide and weapons charges, according to the email from Vernarelli.

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