CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — Thomas Maxwell is now home from the hospital after mistakenly being pronounced deceased by fire medics last week.
Feb. 15 is a day his daughter, Phebe Maxwell, will never forget. Thomas went into cardiac arrest at their home in Clearwater.
“I had to call my family in Ohio and tell them my dad passed away, then I have to call them back to say, no he’s alive,” she said. “The EMT when he got there, he just squatted down by my dad, and I’m like, ‘he’s still alive.’ he’s like ‘no, ma’am, he’s gone, I’m sorry–that’s just his body releasing gas,” she explained. “I’m like, ‘no, he’s alive.'”
Clearwater Fire and Rescue says two medics, Jacob Rivero and Sebastian Picken, responded from Station 47.
Phebe watched them quickly check her dad’s wrist for a pulse before they told her he was dead.
“It was probably 15 minutes, I was screaming and crying,” she said. “By the time my friend and my mom dragged me off my dad, the sheriff’s had gotten here.”
“I guess the EMT’s left,” she continued.
That’s when a deputy with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office noticed Thomas was still breathing and requested medics return to the scene. Largo Fire Rescue crews responded, almost 30 minutes after the original 911 call and rushed Thomas to the hospital.
“Without them, my dad could’ve woken up in the morgue or really suffered before he died,” she said.
As for Rivero and Picken, they are on administrative duty and have been clinically suspended by Pinellas County’s EMS medical director.
A comprehensive review has been initiated by both Clearwater Fire & Rescue and the Pinellas County EMS Medical Director’s Office.
Neither medic can provide any patient care at the time this article was written.
“On behalf of the city, I apologize for the actions and the inactions of our crew during this incident,” Chief Ehlers said. “We have strict policies and procedures in place that were not followed, according to our preliminary review. These two did not perform to the standard of care that our citizens expect and deserve.”
“Our first responders proudly serve our community each and every day, and they are expected to help people when they need it the most,” said Interim City Manager Jennifer Poirrier. “When this does not occur at the level at which we expect, it is incumbent upon us to determine exactly what happened, why it happened, and then ensure it will never happen again.”
8 On Your Side has requested the initial report and body camera footage from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. They denied the request, citing the active investigation.
Thomas declined to be interviewed, saying his attorney advised him to do so.