A traffic jam orchestrated by members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration appeared not to cause poor medical care or leave critically ill patients dying, according to a comprehensive review by The Associated Press of emergency dispatch audio, call logs and interviews.
The lack of life-or-death consequences could affect the political repercussions for Christie, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016.
The AP’s review sought to identify any emergency situations within a roughly 5-mile radius of the bridge closings where a person’s life or urgent medical care appeared to have been directly endangered by stalled response times attributable to the traffic jams — and whoever was responsible for them.
“The George Washington Bridge is totally gridlocked,” a first responder said just before 9 a.m. on Sept. 9, the first day of the lane shutdowns. A few minutes later, a 45-year-old man called to complain of chest pains and said he was resting comfortably on a couch until help could arrive.
“We’ll do our best,” said the dispatcher in nearby Edgewater. The dispatcher noted the emergency crew was delayed in Fort Lee. There were no follow-up 911 calls to indicate rising concern.
Fort Lee’s EMS coordinator, Paul Favia, complained in a September 2013 letter to Fort Lee’s mayor of minor delays in reaching the scenes of a traffic collision, a patient suffering chest pains and a 91-year-old woman found unconscious in her Fort Lee home and later pronounced dead, although her family doesn’t blame the delays for her death.
In Palisades Park, N.J., it took responders about 30 minutes to respond to a traffic collision in nearby Fort Lee on Sept. 9.
Police in the area, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, tried to alleviate the traffic, which clogged local roads and created miles of brake lights for days. Just as rush hour hit in full swing, a police officer radioed his plans to stop at the bottom of a nearby street and “pull some of this traffic through.”
Ten minutes later, dispatchers offered a blunt assessment.
“Fort Lee traffic is a nightmare,” one said. Said another: “You’re all aware the town is in total gridlock, right?”
Six commuters who were late to work have filed a lawsuit and two plaintiffs said their pay was docked because they were tardy.
Dispatchers sent an ambulance to the Cliffside Park home of 91-year-old Florence Fogarty on Sept. 9 after she fell.
“I was pleased with the service,” Fogarty said, saying she doesn’t remember any unexpected delays. Logs show that it took responders about one minute to get to her house.