Ambulette driver charged in death of 86-year-old woman

Dray Clark has the story from the Pelham Park section of the Bronx.
November 15, 2013 8:26:44 PM PST
A former ambulette driver was charged Friday for causing the death of an 86-year-old woman, announced Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The passenger, a resident of Gold Coast Care Center of the Bronx, died one month after she was seriously injured when she was ejected from her wheelchair during medical transport. The driver, Juan Garcia, had refused to take the elderly woman to the hospital. He had failed to attach her seatbelt.

"This ambulette driver was entrusted with the well-being of his wheelchair-bound patient. Had he taken the most basic safety precautions, this vulnerable nursing home resident would not have died in this horrific way," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "My office will hold medical providers accountable for criminal negligence."

On August 13, 2010, Garcia was driving the resident back to Gold Crest Care Center from a dialysis appointment. The driver, who was then working for Maeleen Ambulette Transport, Inc., admitted to Attorney General investigators that he failed to buckle the resident's seatbelt before their return trip. At the intersection of Eastchester Road and Pelham Parkway at about 6:30 p.m., Garcia stopped the ambulette short and the elderly passenger was ejected from her wheelchair and thrown to the floor of the vehicle.

Instead of taking the visibly injured passenger, who cried out in pain, to a nearby hospital, Garcia drove to Gold Crest Care Center, which was farther away. Garcia even ignored a request from a certified nurse's assistant who was on board to take the victim to the hospital.

When the resident was finally taken to the hospital, she was diagnosed with a fractured hip and underwent surgery. The passenger never recovered from her injuries, and she died about one month after the incident due to complications from her injuries and surgery.

Garcia, 49, of the Bronx, was arraigned today in Bronx County Supreme Court before the Honorable William McGuire. The defendant was released on his own recognizance. The charges against the defendant are mere accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Garcia faces up to 4 years in prison.