Paramedics fired, suspended for failing to help new mom who died of stroke

A Hillsborough County official blasted their 'arrogance' and 'lack of remorse.'

September 26, 2018, 8:20 PM

Four paramedics in Florida were hit with punishments ranging from suspensions to termination on Wednesday, two months after a new mother they were sent to help died of a stroke.

Nicole Black, the mother of Crystle Galloway, who died on July 4, just a few days after she underwent a Caesarian section, told ABC News the four paramedics did not check the vital signs of her daughter and kept arguing against taking her in an ambulance, saying she couldn't afford it, even as the two kept pleading to them for help.

After a two-month investigation into the incident, one of the paramedics, Lt. John “Mike” Morris, was fired, Acting Lt. Cortney Barton and Fire Medic Andrew J. Martin were suspended without pay and Fire Medic Justin Sweeney demoted and suspended without pay, the Hillsborough County said on Wednesday.

"I feel relieved because this means maybe one more black person might live, one more person in a minority neighborhood or a poverty-stricken neighborhood is going to live," Black told ABC News.

In a blistering statement, Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill on Friday criticized the four paramedics for their refusal to accept responsibility for the delay —without which he said Galloway would have had a much better chance at being alive — during their interviews with investigators.

"The factors that weighed heavily on me as I made this decision, other than their failure to deliver service and follow clear protocols to check vitals, were their lack of remorse, and in fact, in some cases, outright arrogance," Merrill said.

"Everybody who calls for help deserve to have both of these — they need to know they're getting the most complete service and the best service. On the morning of July 4th, Crystle Galloway received neither."

Galloway's mother Nicole Black told ABC News the paramedics had spent at least 35 minutes arguing and actively dissuading the two from using an ambulance, saying they would not be able to afford it. In the end, Black took her daughter to the hospital in her car but by then it was too late.

"I'm not even mad at them. I'm just so hurt," Black said. "Imagine your daughter screaming for help, your child, the person you love the most. And you got men standing in front of you telling you, 'Oh no, we're not going to take you to the hospital. You can't afford to go to the hospital.'"

Merrill said the investigation had found no evidence that the four paramedics had tried to dissuade the two from being taken in an ambulance.

Mike Morris, the fire medic in charge at the scene, was meted out the most severe punishment — termination — because he had said he would do the same thing over again and that he doesn't need to check the vitals of patients because he can gauge them just by looking, Merrill said.

Of the other three, Fire Medic Justin Sweeney had spent the most time at Galloway's bedside and had the most opportunity to check her vital signs and administer help, Merrill said. Since he did not do these, he was demoted in addition to being suspended for 30 days without pay.

Barton and Martin were suspended for 30 days without pay.

ABC News reached out to the International Association of Firefighters Local 2294, the county firefighters union, for comment but did not immediately receive a reply. In July, union president Derrik Ryan told the Tampa Bay Times that he did not see the actions as a "firing offense."

"We’re not in the business of talking people out of going to the hospital," he said.