Paramedic sues over letter about trauma response

By TRAVIS JAMES TRITTEN

keysnews.com


Conflict over the Upper Keys "chopper wars" continues to reverberate.

A Key Largo paramedic is suing over allegations that he acted "unprofessional if not criminally negligent" while caring for an accident victim who was transported by the county's trauma helicopter and later died.

Mark Holding, a Marathon resident, leveled the claims in a letter to the state Board of Emergency Medical Services and called for an investigation of paramedic Brian Dula and the June 9 death.

"It is no different than saying that this doctor did this and killed this guy," Dula said. "The main goal is to get this aggravation to stop."

A county investigation found Holding's allegations were without merit and based on a conversation among strangers, according to County Fire Chief Clark Martin.

"It was nothing more than a conversation I overheard. I was in a restaurant and I couldn't tell you which one right now," Holding said. "Whether it is true or not, I don't know."

Dula is suing for more than $15,000 in damages.

The July 20 Holding letter was sent to Commissioner Murray Nelson and Nelson promptly faxed it to other county commissioners.

The letter sparked renewed debate over the county's split trauma response system. Upper Keys residents use tax money to pay for helicopter service by Miami Air Rescue and use the county system as a back up. The Middle and Lower Keys are serviced exclusively by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office TraumaStar helicopter.

Holding claimed that emergency workers argued over whether the victim should be transported to a Miami trauma center by the county's TraumaStar transport helicopter or a Miami Air Rescue team.

Holding claimed Dula refused to call TraumaStar and wasted precious minutes that might have been used to save 25-year-old Jonathan Chapman's life when his truck ran off the highway near Key Largo.

Dula and Key Largo Fire Chief Sergio Garcia vehemently denied Holding's claims, saying no argument occurred that day and teams did what they could to save Chapman.

Poor weather barred the TraumaStar rescue teams from landing at Ryder Trauma Center and Chapman remained at Mariner's Hospital for nearly an hour. He died just before reaching the Ryder.

"As a direct and proximate result of the defamatory statements made by [Holding], [Dula] has suffered and continues to suffer injuries to his reputation, shame, humiliation, mental anguish and hurt feelings," according to Dula's legal complaint filed last month.

"I am not going to settle anything," said Holding on his plans for the lawsuit. "I still think I live in America and I have a right to my opinion."

Holding said TraumaStar saved his life about a year ago when he was beaten with a metal rod during a road rage incident.



ttritten@keysnews.com