An ambulance service has fired a driver who got into a fatal traffic accident during an emergency call, the man's attorney said Tuesday.
Benjamin Ward Samples, 36, who was charged with misdemeanor negligent homicide Monday in Oklahoma County, has a history of driving infractions including driving under the influence, according to court records.
Samples pleaded guilty on May 5, 2003, to charges of driving while under the influence, speeding, changing lanes unsafely and transporting an open container of alcohol.
He also pleaded guilty to speeding in 2005. EMSA's requirements for employment include a clear criminal and traffic record, but EMSA officials said Tuesday Samples cleared a background check and was approved by EMSA's insurance company when he was hired in February.
Samples' attorney, Ed Blau, said Tuesday his client was following established rules, a claim disputed by the Emergency Medical Services Authority.
“EMSA, rather than standing by a dedicated employee, Mr. Samples, they chose to throw him out on the street rather than deal with any more negative publicity,” Blau said. “They terminated a dedicated, hardworking employee that was following the rules but was unfortunately involved in a tragic accident.”
Samples, an emergency medical technician, was driving an ambulance Dec. 10 in Oklahoma City when his emergency vehicle collided with a Toyota Scion making a left turn. The driver of the Scion, Fidel Mesa-Solis, was killed in the accident.
Police and court records indicate Samples was going 83 mph in a 40 mph zone at the time of the accident and was driving left of center.
EMSA officials said Tuesday that drivers are only allowed to go 10 mph over the posted speed limit during an emergency call and only if it would not endanger life or property.
Blau called that rule “an absurdity.”
“Anybody that has ever seen an ambulance travel the streets of Oklahoma City knows they go faster than that, and they should be able to go faster than that,” Blau said. “Nobody waiting on an ambulance wants them to go 45 in a 35.”
EMSA's driving standards policy says drivers are never to exceed 80 miles per hour. It also says driving in oncoming lanes should be avoided. When unavoidable, an ambulance is to be driven no faster than 15 miles per hour in oncoming lanes. At the time of the accident, the ambulance was being driven to a priority two call, or one involving an emergency that is not life threatening.
Blau said Samples has been an emergency medical technician for about a year.
“He is absolutely devastated and heartbroken by the loss of life,” Blau said. “His training and his employment is in saving people's lives.”