ELKO — After a 2008 fatal car crash, a grieving Elko mother channeled her heartache and is now pushing for reform to EMT laws.
Candace James recently completed a book — co-written by former Free Press staff writer Danielle Switalski — recounting her own investigation into the accident, which left her unsettled and calling for change.
On Oct. 10, 2008, Laura Thompson, then 24, sat in the back seat of a car traveling from Elko to Round Mountain when the driver overcorrected, James said, and the car flipped. Two passengers in the front seats survived with minor injuries — including the driver who was charged with a misdemeanor DUI, she said.
EMT’s were quick to respond to the scene, but Thompson, James’ daughter, was already pronounced dead. James was notified the following afternoon in her home. She describes herself being in a stage of “rage grief.”
“I was talking about it and asking questions, and I said this whole 9-1-1 has turned into a 9-wrong-wrong,” James said. “Right from the get go it wasn’t right, something wasn’t jiving.”
James began doing her own investigation of the accident, which, she said, indicated at least some degree of negligence.
Thompson was in the back seat where she stayed for five hours after the accident. According to 9-1-1 tapes, James surmised her daughter was alive immediately after the crash and could have been pulled from the wreckage, resuscitated and possibly saved.
“(The EMT) was saying that she was dead. He can’t declare somebody dead,” she said. “... She was laying there making noises. He said he checked her repeatedly.”
Based on signs that the victim’s matted hair was never moved off her neck and a lack of marks on her body, James believes the EMT on the scene never checked for signs of life.
“When you check somebody’s pressure and they’re already dead, it’s going to leave a mark because your blood automatically starts pooling. ... Well there were no compression marks there. They checked nothing on her,” James said.
James sued Nye County for gross negligence but ultimately ran low on finances and the charges were dismissed. The judge said not enough evidence existed to support James’ claims.
But that judgment didn’t halt James’ purpose, which is now to raise awareness. She started a support group for parents who have lost children called Healing Hearts, and she is writing a second book exploring that sentiment tentatively titled, “Like No Other: A Mother’s Love.”
The next chapter for James is reform. She’s aiming to change state law. The determined mother contacted Assemblyman John Ellison recently and asked the lawmaker to help change a statute related to EMT guidelines. Referred to by supporters as “Laura’s Law” after James’ late daughter, the modification would allow for civil retribution under certain circumstances of gross negligence that resulted in death.
The revision of statute isn’t intended to allow frivolity, she explained. “I understand why they are protected because if not they would be sued every day. But when there’s gross, reckless negligence resulting in death, they need to be accountable. That’s what the law’s about,” she said.
A person’s background should be factored into negligence charges, she said. In her daughter’s case, the EMT had prior felony convictions related to burglary and drug possession.
“People like this person ... should never have had that position. The state of Nevada signed off on him, knowing he just got out of prison,” she said.
Ellison said the change isn’t going to be introduced as a bill but instead as a regulation to be discussed this coming summer.
“It’s asking that anyone who has been convicted of a felony for drugs can’t drive an ambulance,” Ellison said.
James is continuing to document the process of reform in a sequel book, titled “9 Wrong Wrong Made Right.”
“It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been a whirlwind,” she said.
In James’ effort to raise awareness, she’s scheduled local book signing opportunities. Current dates are the following: 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. April 6 at Haley’s Fine Gifts, 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. April 20 at The Flying Fish, and 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. April 26 at Black Dog Coffee and Gifts.
The book will be available in June on Amazon or available now for preorder at Tate Publishing’s website.
Call 934-3570 for information on Healing Hearts.