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City Council Committee OKs Settlement Over Paramedics’ Alleged Mistakes

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File Photo Of Ambulance (AP Photo)

File Photo Of Ambulance (AP Photo)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A City Council committee has signed off on a $1.75 million settlement to compensate the family of a 13-year-old asthmatic girl who died after a series of alleged mistakes by Chicago Fire Department paramedics in 2002.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, Arielle Starks died of bronchial asthma in 2002, and her family’s attorney says she would be alive today if not for a series of mistakes by paramedics.

It started with a 911 call and what should have been a short trip to the hospital, but it ended a short while later with Arielle Starks in the Cook County morgue. Her family says it’s a tragedy that should never have happened.

On Tuesday, the City Council Finance Committee signed off on a $1.75 million settlement agreement with Starks’ mother. The full City Council will consider the deal on Wednesday.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports

“The proper medical procedures was not performed on my daughter,” said Arielle’s mother, Dorothy Starks, as she cried during a news conference on Tuesday.

It was nearly 10 years ago when Starks’ daughter Arielle died after her asthma attack became a heart attack and Dorothy Starks said Chicago Fire Department paramedics are to blame.

“She went from respiratory distress, to respiratory failure, to cardiac arrest, and then death; all while being treated by the Chicago Fire Department paramedics,” said Attorney Brian Murphy.

Murphy said the first mistake happened when a breathing tube was put into Arielle’s esophagus. It should have been placed in her trachea.

The second happened when no paramedic checked the tube despite her deteriorating condition, Murphy said.

Finally, the ambulance got in an accident on the way to the hospital and, even though it was drivable, paramedics followed procedure and waited nine minutes for another ambulance to come and pick up Arielle.

“If they had not delayed, more likely than not, she would have survived at Trinity Hospital,” said Murphy.

But Arielle didn’t survive. That’s why Murphy said the family has agreed to a $1.75 million settlement with the city.

But, in order to insure this doesn’t happen again, he says the Fire Department must change its ambulance accident policy.

“I don’t care if you have a general order or not. Once you know the other driver is okay, you call it in and you go. That’s common sense,” said Murphy.

He said because that didn’t happen, Dorothy Starks lost her only daughter.

“For the longest time, it was just me and Arielle, and we were very close,” Dorothy Starks said as she wiped away tears. “And I miss having her here.”

Representatives of the city’s Law Department did not return calls for comment.

Fire Department sources said they have more resources on the street now and they can get ambulances to any part of the city in about three or four minutes, but ambulance drivers are still instructed to remain on the scene in the event of an accident.

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