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New video shows responding ambulance did not slow at bus stop where woman soon died from hypothermia

By Adam Rife

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    MILWAUKEE (WDJT) — New video shows an ambulance seemingly not slowing down as it drove just feet away from where a woman lay in sub-freezing temperatures.

Forty-nine-year-old Jolene Waldref died from hypothermia less than an hour later on Jan. 15 near a bus stop.

The Curtis Ambulance crew that was unable to find her was not required to get out of their vehicle to look for her.

At a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 30, Curtis Ambulance officials said their crews are allowed to drive past a scene, but they do not have to get out of the vehicle to look for a patient.

Both the Curtis Ambulance representatives and the Milwaukee Fire Department described the incident as a terrible tragedy.

They say Waldref’s body was hidden behind an electrical box, a garbage can, and piles of snow.

The Curtis Ambulance crew did not see her as they drove past, and they did not stop to look for her.

James Baker, the CEO of Curtis Ambulance, said Tuesday, “The crew did the best they could by looking for the patient.”

But that Curtis Ambulance crew did not find Waldref.

At Tuesday’s news conference, Baker defended the crew’s response, saying, “We felt that they did their due diligence. They didn’t do anything wrong. The EMS system here worked as designed.”

Waldref was waiting to catch a bus on the night of Jan. 15 near 76th and Congress when she fell near the sidewalk.

Her friend Shannon Eckert previously told us, “Jolene was a very nice person. She would do for other people.”

Waldref called 911 at 5:23 p.m. A Curtis Ambulance was dispatched and arrived four minutes later.

It first drove past the two bus stops in the eastbound lanes. Then, Baker said, “They went up a block, they did a U-turn, they came back and checked the bus stop on the northeast corner, and then proceeded through and checked the bus stop on the northwest corner.”

New surveillance video from that time shows a Curtis Ambulance responding as Baker described, but the ambulance crew -a 12-year veteran and a two-year veteran- do not appear to slow down at any of the bus stops.

Baker said, “There was no patient found at any of the four places.”

Dan Robakowski, Curtis Ambulance’s vice president of operations, said, “Our best guess is that the crew was unable to see anybody that was in that sidewalk or fence area.”

They said protocol does not require crews to get out of their vehicles to look for patients.

Robakowski confirmed Tuesday, “No, they did not get out of their vehicle to look.”

After driving through, dispatch tried calling Waldref back twice, then cleared the ambulance to leave the area.

On Tuesday Baker repeatedly defended his crew, saying they “looked as best as you can see.”

Eventually, passersby saw Waldref and two people again called 911.

This time a Milwaukee Fire crew responded and found Waldref on the ground between two snowbanks and a trash can.

Baker said, “You do the best you can. To a certain extent, you can’t go do patient searches for 300 patients a day.”

Jolene Waldref was pronounced dead a short time after she was found.

Baker said he would feel the same way if his crews had not seen someone he knew.

The two Curtis employees will not be disciplined.

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