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$100 Million Wrongful Death Claim Filed Against Fire Department by Daughter of a Man Who Died of Cardiac Arrest

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Bridgette Angulo filed a claim on 27th January with the city, alleging that Rialto paramedics who failed to immediately enter the Post-Acute Care Centre where her 56-year-old father, Joseph Angulo was having a heart attack which he subsequently died from.

Joseph Angulo’s heart attack occurred on 17th November 2021 shortly before 8pm.

“As a result of the Rialto Fire Department staff and paramedics’ failure to administer the needed medical assistance to claimant’s decedent, decedent died,” according to the claim.

Body cam footage has surfaced online of the incident.

Footage showed three paramedics standing inertly outside the facility’s entrance doors wearing face masks, while nurses inside the facility performed CPR on Angulo and scrambled around in a panic. Angulo had been a patient at the centre since 5th November 2021.

City officials were shocked by the incident, and they commissioned an independent investigation into the incident, and publicly released the recorded video from responding police corporal Ralph Ballew’s body-worn camera. Officials also placed the three paramedics who responded to the 911 call and refused to enter the building on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Allegedly, Rialto Mayor Pro Tem Ed Scott said the tape was difficult to watch, and it was unlike the well-regarded Rialto Fire Department to refuse help to the community.

“We’re hopeful that the investigation will wrap up soon,” said city spokesman Adan Orega.

Bridgette Angulo’s attorney said, “The situation was very disappointing – that one of our local first responders would do this.”

State of California’s COVID-19 protocol was cited as the paramedics’ reason for refusing entry to the facility, expressing to nursing staff they needed to bring Angulo outside. Nurses begged and pleaded with the paramedics, but the paramedics stubbornly refused entry.

One member of staff from the facility yelled out to the paramedics that Mr Angulo was unable to be moved because CPR was being performed on him. The response from Fire personnel was allegedly, “You are doing the same thing we would have to do if we went in, so hurry up and bring him out so we can help!”

Ballew, now a sergeant, did enter the facility after a brief conversation with paramedics which is inaudible on the body cam footage, quickly assisting nurses to navigate Angulo’s wheel-less bed through the hallway with one nurse mounted atop the bed performing chest compressions and attempting to resuscitate him. He noted that one of the paramedics said to him that the nursing staff “should call their congressman” if they did not appreciate what they were doing.

Ballew stated in his report that “Despite being in their line of sight, personnel still insisted on (Angulo) being brought to them outside before they began life saving efforts and made no effort to assist me in getting (Angulo) outside.” He also said that when he entered the centre, staff were “distraught and upset by the lack of effort”

Even after Angulo was finally brought outside, paramedics delayed treatment even further, insisting that everyone “slow down” while they proceeded to enquire as to how long Angulo had been in cardiac arrest and whether he had a DNR (do not resuscitate) order.

Paramedics eventually took over the life saving efforts and Angulo was transported to Arrowhead regional Medical Centre, less then two miles away from the centre, but efforts failed, and he was pronounced dead at 8:39pm.

Staff informed law enforcement they had never faced such a situation, despite having called first responders to the facility several times in the past, according to a police report.

The facility staff member who made the 911 call added that the dispatcher told them paramedics “had to come in.”

Attorney William D. Shapiro said, “It was pretty disgusting. The situation was very disappointing – that one of our local first responders would do this.”

At the time of the incident, the department had requested that all dispatch centres ask facilities to move patients to the door or outside the location. But the memo also stated that “If [the] patient cannot be transferred to exit for of outside prior to arrival, one member of Fire/EMS personnel should initially interact with the patient.”

The paramedics in question have been placed on leave after the city opened an investigation.

Rialto Post-Acute staff said they rely heavily on paramedic equipment to save patients – equipment such as IV access, medication administration, intubation, and defibrillation.

In the aftermath of Joseph Angulo’s death, Emergency Medical Services Authority, the San Bernardino Chapter, has stated that paramedics cannot refuse care unless the situation is too dangerous.

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