Paramedic on leave, accused of crashing ambulance with patient inside while allegedly drunk

Motor City mayhem left a paramedic on leave after an ambulance crash damaged three vehicles in a suspected drunk driving incident — while transporting a patient.

(Video: WXYZ)

Shortly after 1 a.m. Friday in Hamtramck, Michigan, just outside downtown Detroit, a paramedic with the Detroit Fire Department steered himself into unpaid leave after an apparent series of bad decisions resulted in side-swiping three parked cars.

According to a statement from the DFD, while transporting a non-emergency patient to Henry Ford Hospital, the paramedic, whose identity was not disclosed, had reportedly become distracted while reviewing a map when he struck the vehicles parked on a residential block while traveling approximately 20 miles per hour.

“We don’t believe this is a regular occurrence,” said DFD Chief of Staff David Levalley to WXYZ who detailed that it wasn’t apparent the driver was under the influence until he had been conveyed to a testing facility per protocol. “This is a particular individual that made a decision to engage in conduct that was outside what our policies are.”

“It was crazy,” commented Maroof Ali whose vehicle was among those struck. “I mean, I couldn’t believe it was drunk driving. A guy driving an ambulance is going to hit three cars at the same time? That’s crazy.”

Neither the patient, the driver, nor the other two DFD employees aboard the ambulance at the time of the accident were reported to have injuries as a result of the crash. Further, Levalley added of the paramedic’s six years of service clear of any alcohol-related occurrences and accidents, “There was no indication amongst coworkers or supervision that there was an issue going on.”

“We have a zero-tolerance policy for the use of alcohol while on duty and will take the appropriate action,” said DFD Commissioner Chuck Simms in a statement. “We have an outstanding team of EMTs and paramedics at DFD and it’s [unfortunate] that this incident detracts from the lifesaving work they do every day.”

WXYZ highlighted that there had been two alcohol-related accidents in a single week in 2021 over which the department vowed to make reforms.

“We have programs and supportive services in place for our employees who may be struggling with issues such as alcohol dependency and we will redouble our efforts to make sure any employee who may need them are aware of how to access them,” said Simms.

Estimating between $2,000 and $2,500 in repairs for the damage to his car, Ali expressed hope that the city would take responsibility for the costs and lamented the impact the accident had on his own ability to earn a living.

“This is an emergency truck. You can’t be drunk driving an emergency truck — there’s no way,” he told WXYZ. “Without a car, you won’t be able to run your family and pay your rent to be honest, and you won’t be able to put food on your table.”

Meanwhile, in a separate incident, Detroit Department of Transportation interim executive director Michael Staley released a statement about a crash that same morning where a bus driver had also been placed on leave following failure of a breathalyzer test.

“Violations of DDOT’s drug and alcohol policy will be treated with the utmost urgency and seriousness, and the Department will take appropriate action based on the results of the investigation in this case,” said Staley as there were no reported injuries.

Kevin Haggerty

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