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Sheriff deputy’s widow sues responding ambulance company for contributing to his death

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Claims Opportunity EMS contributed to off-duty deputy’s death

The wife of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy who died following a motorcycle accident last September is suing the ambulance company dispatched to the scene.

Pamela Smith, who is the personal representative for the estate of Sgt. Larry Smith, has filed a civil suit against Opportunity EMS.

Last October, the Covington County E-911 board suspended a dispatch agreement with the ambulance service for 60 days.

At the time, Mark Ryan, attorney for the board, said the suspension stemmed from Smith’s accident.

Pamela Smith was also a passenger.

The complaint against Opportunity EMS is on the Covington County Circuit Court’s Aug. 12 civil docket, and says that the Smiths were riding their motorcycle on West Cummings Avenue in Opp when Larry “had a coughing spell which caused him to alter his driving status and (leave) the roadway and (strike) a tree.”

According to the complaint, Covington County E-911 was notified of the emergency and dispatched the defendant under a Code 3 run.

“Opportunity EMS Inc. had a contract with Covington County E-911 that required that when a Code 3 run dispatch was received, the EMS unit dispatched must have an advanced life support paramedic on board of the ambulance dispatched. The EMS ambulance receiving such dispatch to a Code 3 run must advise the Covington County E-911 dispatcher if they do not have an advanced life support paramedic available so that the dispatcher can make an emergency dispatch to an ambulance service who does have such an advanced life support paramedic available for the emergency.”

The complaint says that Opportunity EMS accepted the dispatch but failed to have an advanced life support paramedic on board the ambulance and did not inform the dispatcher they did not have the proper paramedic available.

According to the complaint, when Opp Fire Chief Cory Spurlin, who also serves on the E-911 board, saw that the ambulance arrived on the scene without proper paramedics for severe chest injuries, he requested that another EMS unit, Pridemark, be dispatched to the scene with the required paramedic.

“Valuable time was lost due to the failure of defendant, Opportunity EMS, not having a required and necessary paramedic on the run which necessitated making other arrangements and the loss of essential time for giving assistance to the plaintiff’s decedent (Larry Smith),” the complaint states.

Smith eventually was transported to Mizell Memorial Hospital where he arrived with weak pulses after receiving CPR, but died a short time later.

The complaint further alleges that Opportunity EMS’s negligence caused valuable time to slip away and eventually caused Smith’s death.

In October 2015, attorney Thomas Tankersley represented Opportunity EMS at a hearing before the E-911 board, but did not provide any evidence indicating the company did not violate the contract by not providing the advanced life support unit.

Tankerlsey is not representing the ambulance company in the civil suit – William H. Morrow and Amie A. Vague of Birmingham are.

Attorney Stephen Heninger of Birmingham is representing Smith.

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