SAGINAW (WJRT) (2/16/2018) - Emergency responders in Saginaw are asking questions after a Mobile Medical Response ambulance failed to arrive at the scene of a deadly fire in a timely fashion Monday evening.
Both women who died in the fire in the 1700 block of Wood Street were taken to the hospital in the back of police and fire department vehicles instead of an ambulance.
The Saginaw Fire Department pulled 71-year-old Adair Smithpeters and her daughter, 41-year-old Melissa Shook, from inside the house within minutes of arriving on the scene around 10:20 p.m.
Radio traffic from that evening recorded an urgent exchange between rescue workers on the scene and a Saginaw County dispatcher trying to confirm an ambulance was coming for the other victim.
"Affirm, MMR is en route and we are being told by area residents that there are people running in the house to try and help," a dispatcher told responding firefighters before they arrived.
The radio recordings indicate that once the victims were rescued from the home, one of the emergency responders was asking for an ambulance.
"Check with MMR. Did they dispatch a second ambulance here?" someone from the scene asked a dispatcher.
"Affirm, they are supposed to have two," the dispatcher replied.
"Alright, apparently one got into a (property damage accident) and got stuck. We don't know where the second one is. We need a rig here," the first responder said.
Faye Mason, who lives next door, said the women were driven to hospitals in a police car and a fire department battalion chief's SUV.
Rescue workers at the fire apparently thought the first Mobile Medical Response rig sent to the scene got into a crash, but MMR spokeswoman Lynn Schutter said there was no crash.
Instead, the rig got stuck in the snow less than a block from the scene after the Saginaw Police Department told the crew to stage there. While stopped there, a fire truck came so close to the ambulance that both couldn't move and a wrecker service had to be called.
Both victims already had been driven away from the scene by the time the second MMR ambulance arrived on the scene.
Even though there would have been medical equipment on the ambulance to care for the victims, Mason believes the women's injuries were so extreme that the decision to take the victims in a police car and fire truck was the right choice.
"Police and firemen thought to get them immediate care," she said. "How long were we going to know MMR wasn't going to be here. We had waited. It was just a tense situation."
Shook died Monday evening in a Saginaw hospital while Smithpeters was airlifted to a Metro Detroit hospital, where she died the following day. There is no way of knowing whether the victims would have survived if the ambulance had arrived quicker.
A man inside the house was able to escape safely.
Investigators determined the house that burned had been condemned hours before the fire broke out, mostly due to trash strewn all over inside.
A Michigan State Police fire investigator believes the fire started somewhere in the front of the house, but a specific cause had not been determined Friday. Police want to talk with the man who escaped again, but he checked himself into a Detroit hospital.