By Rob Johnson
June 14, 2005 — There are questions following the death of a woman during a big trade show in Chicago. It happened during the NeoCon show for the furniture and interior design industries.
The woman died after collapsing at the merchandise mart and now the city of Chicago is investigating whether the emergency response was handled correctly.
Investigators have pulled the tapes from both the fire dispatch center and the office of emergency management. They’re trying to figure out if the correct emergency crews were sent to the scene and when they arrived. The first 9-1-1 call from the Merchandise Mart came into emergency management at just after 10:20 am Tuesday, a minute and a half later the Chicago Fire Department dispatched an ambulance from Norwegian American Hospital on the Northwest Side, nearly four miles away. A fire truck was the first to arrive on the scene. But it did not have what’s called advanced life support or ALS capabilities. Such ALS engines have at least one paramedic and a full complement of equipment equal to an ambulance.
It’s fire department policy to send an ALS equipped engine and an ambulance on any calls involving cardiac arrest. There is a firehouse less than a mile from the Merchandise Mart and it has an ALS fire engine.
It’s not clear where that engine was, but ABC7 News has learned the Chicago Fire Department was conducting training exercises including what are called "special duty drills", near the Merchandise Mart at the time of the emergency. According to the Cook County medical examiner the heart attack victim — 55 year old Deborah Maras of Chicago– was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 11:29 am. Investigators are listening to the emergency tapes to determine exactly when the truck and the ambulance arrived on the scene, and why an ALS engine was not dispatched.
A fire department spokesperson told ABC7 news the department responds to all dispatches received and does so as rapidly as possible.