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Stalled D.C. ambulance raises broader questions

Thursday - 5/30/2013, 1:15pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Crucial questions remain unanswered one day after a D.C. ambulance broke down while carrying a patient to the hospital.

That man, a carjacking suspect, later died.

"We need to find out if it's a mechanical issue, if it's a systemic issue, and address it immediately," says Ed Smith, president of the D.C. Firefighters Association. "Any delay, regardless of the reason, is unacceptable."

The vehicle stalled while transporting Nathaniel McRae, 24, from Southeast D.C. where he was hurt in a gun battle with police.

Officers say he stole a car and began shooting at responding authorities.

The D.C. Council's Judiciary and Public Safety Committee has launched an inquiry.

WTOP obtained a statement from the office of Councilmember Tommy Wells, who is chairman of the committee. It reads, "The committee has inquired to the status of the equipment, why the mechanical breakdown occurred, and how long it took to transfer to the second ambulance."

Meanwhile, Smith contends the incident shines light on a broader problem.

"We have an aging fleet," says Smith. "We have a lack of reserves to replace the units as they break down mechanically."

The D.C. Fire and EMS Department has faced repeated public criticism over the condition of its vehicles, including a recent scathing report by the office of the inspector general.

"We need to address the problem," Smith says. "Seconds count."

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