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6 Firefighters On Leave After Man Mistakenly Declared Dead

Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 13, 2014
and last updated 2015-09-07 14:27:42-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Six Metro firefighters were placed on administrative leave following their response to an emergency call early Wednesday morning.

Paramedics pronounced a gunshot victim dead and left the scene, but it turns out the victim was still alive.

The 911 call came in just after 3 a.m. A 30-year-old man at a townhome on 735 Tulip Grove Road in Hermitage had shot himself in the head.

After paramedics arrived, paperwork shows they called a Vanderbilt doctor and reported the patient had injuries that were "incompatible with life."

They declared him dead at 3:48 a.m. and left.

The physician didn't know as much as he should have when he made that decision," said Corey Slovis, medical director for the Metro Nashville Fire Department.

It turns out that the victim was still breathing, so police at the scene called for another ambulance -- two hours after the initial 911 call.

The victim was finally transported to the hospital nearly 90 minutes after he was initially declared dead.

Dr. Corey Slovis and Nashville Fire Chief Rick White said this was a huge mistake.

"I'm very disturbed. If someone has signs of life, it's not up to us decide if they go or not," Chief White said.

"We in the Nashville Fire Bureau will do everything we can without a doubt to make sure something like this does not happen again," Dr. Slovis said.

Current protocol said if a person shows no signs of life -- no pulse, no breathing, no blood pressure -- the ambulance should not transport him.

But this patient was apparently still struggling to breathe when the ambulance left the scene.

"Everybody involved in this has been placed on administrative leave," Chief White said.

White put all three firefighters who responded, as well as an EMT, a paramedic and an EMS district chief on administrative leave.

Now the department is investigating and doing damage control.

“I want to stress to all Nashvillians and our entire community that the Nashville Fire Department transports all people with signs of life," Chief White said.

This investigation is in the very early stages.

The patient, at last check, was still alive in very critical condition, but his outlook is not good.