Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Latest crash renews grieving mom's push for better emergency response

Nearest unit should respond, she saysBy Chris Echegaray • THE TENNESSEAN • October 20, 2010 Lori Gregory, who lost her son in a car crash on Springfield Highway, says a fatal wreck on the same stretch of road last weekend shows the continued need for the closest ambulance available to respond rather than have such aid stop at the county line. A 59-year-old motorcyclist and his daughter were struck on Saturday in Goodlettsville when a vehicle switched lanes. It happened 10 feet from the site of the crash that took the life of Gregory's son, J.R. Ballentine, on May 30. A few miles down the road, county ambulances were available in Greenbrier and Ridgetop in Robertson County, Gregory said. They were never called, she said. "We can talk to astronauts on the moon, so why can't we coordinate our 911?" Gregory said. "It's frustrating. All it takes is a phone call. Metro and the counties need to do something." Gregory is reaching out to state representatives about the issue she says will persist near county lines. She wants a law enacted that would erase political boundaries in medical emergencies and require that the closest unit respond. A 2004 state law authorizes and provides a framework allowing emergency agencies across Tennessee to request and provide mutual aid. Assistance has to be specifically requested and is not automatic throughout most of Middle Tennessee. In Davidson near Robertson County Gregory's 18-year-old son and a passenger died in a two-vehicle crash a mile from the Robertson County line. The accident was called in at 5:10 p.m. Ambulances sent from other parts of Davidson County picked them up, and they arrived at Vanderbilt University Medical Center minutes before 6 p.m. Saturday, Rickey Otts, 59, was barely alive after the collision. His daughter, Tiffany Coe, 32, was his passenger on the motorcycle. She was injured but conscious. A Good Samaritan helped them and waited for emergency crews to get to the stretch of road that's in Goodlettsville, part of Davidson County. Nashville Fire Department District Chief Charles Shannon said that he would not be able to get the response time to Saturday's crash until today. Greenbrier Mayor Billy Wilson said Metro has the option to call for mutual aid. "He still had a pulse," said Wilson, also chief of the small town's volunteer fire department. "We have a mutual aid agreement. All Metro has to do is ask for it. We can't just show up." Liability, insurance and concerns about boundaries keep available ambulances from helping, Wilson said. "We can't self-dispatch," he said. "It opens it up for a lawsuit." The Good Samaritan was Wilson's daughter, a trained medical first responder. Contact Chris Echegaray at 615-664-2144 or

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