A former paramedic says a young man who died after he fled from an ambulance on a highway near St. John's on Monday morning might still be alive if paramedics had been permitted to restrain their patient.
Riley Andersen Fowlow, 19, was struck and killed by a transport truck on the Trans-Canada Highway after he ran from a private ambulance that had been hired to transport him from the hospital in Clarenville to a health care facility in St. John's.
Dave Pedersen was a paramedic for a decade, first in Alberta, then with Eastern Health for the past two years. Earlier this month, he left the profession and now he is studying to be a naval architect.
Pedersen said being a paramedic can be a challenging job.
"You can experience a wide range of things in your day. Everything from delivering a baby to doing monotonous things to doing very, very, scary things," said Pedersen. "It's 90 per cent boredom, 10 per cent edge-of-your-seat."
Pedersen said without outside help, Eastern Health paramedics have few options to control patients.
Late Thursday, Eastern Health told CBC its own paramedics have the authority to restrain violent or unpredictable patients.
However, the health authority says its policies don't apply to private ambulances.
Pedersen said a change in that rule may have saved Fowlow's life.
"Having these restraints in place would certainly give paramedics another tool to ensure that situations like this won't end up in tragedies like we saw this week," he said.
Pedersen added that the rules were different in Alberta, where the stretchers had wrist restraints to protect both the paramedics and the patients.
Sympathy for everyone involved
Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski has apologized on behalf of the organization for the death of Fowlow, and has launched an investigation into what happened.
Pedersen, too, said he feels very sorry for Fowlow's family, but also for the police, paramedics, and the truck driver who struck and killed Fowlow.
"Certainly if he had been restrained, and unable to exit the ambulance, we wouldn't be seeing this situation," he said. "The system let this gentleman down."