Council committee considers Mills tragedy

WASHINGTON — On Monday, a D.C. Council committee met to discuss the Cecil Mills tragedy and to try to determine how big the problems in the D.C. Fire and EMS Department are.

Mills collapsed with a heart attack across the street from a first station in Northeast last month, but five firefighters ignored him, and an ambulance that was eventually sent for him went to the wrong quadrant of the city.

Everyone agrees that the firefighters’ failure to act cost Mills a chance at survival. But the question is, how far up do the problems go, and what should be done?

Tommy Wells, chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, has said that he thinks the tragedy arose from a systemic failure in the department, and Monday he said, “This is either … a malaise in the fire department, or we could say we had this one case where, as Chief Ellerbe says, the leader had created a culture” of unaccountability.

Deputy Mayor Paul Quander, however, says the case is “nothing that has to do with policy and procedures. This is (about) character. … Appropriate and proper protocols were not followed by the members of the fire and emergency medical services.”

Mills’s son, Medric, summed it up by saying, “My father’s tragic death likely could have been prevented.”

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