Woman speaks out to I-Team after she was stranded in Cleveland ambulance on side of highway

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CLEVELAND (WJW) -- A young mother is speaking out to the FOX 8 I-Team after she ended up stranded on the side of a local highway in a Cleveland ambulance.

The ambulance taking Dia Harris to the hospital broke down. And this marks just the latest case of Cleveland EMS units breaking down with patients on board.

Last week, Dia Harris said she fainted at home. She had just had surgery. Her husband called 911.

But on the way to Hillcrest Hospital, the ambulance broke down along busy 271.

That led to a long delay. Dia was left waiting for another ambulance to take her to the ER.

She said, “The truck just stopped. All the noise, the lights, everything. It was like a nightmare.”

She added, ”They were discussing the maintenance issues when I was crying in the back of the truck. The tears was rolling down my face. I was just, like, I’m gonna die.”

Last week, the I-Team revealed another Cleveland ambulance broke down with a patient inside. And that patient needed to get to the hospital right away.

In that case, an EMS crew noticed an engine light, and then the ambulance wouldn’t move more than 5 mph.

In Dia’s case, she says she heard crew members saying their unit had so many miles on it and other problems, maybe it shouldn’t have even been on the road.

The EMS union has raised concerns for years about the conditions of city ambulances.

In a statement, CARE wrote, "CARE continues to advocate for the timely replacement of high mileage ambulances. The City needs a minimum of 4 ambulance replacements each year to help avoid incidents like these. Keeping higher mileage vehicles on the road puts our membership and the patients we transport at risk, while creating increased unnecessary work for city mechanics."

Not long ago, the city raised taxes, in part, to put more ambulances on your streets.

For two days, we’ve been asking to speak to the EMS commissioner on camera about these breakdowns. We’re still waiting.

We are also still waiting for answers from city hall about what caused Dia’s ambulance to have mechanical trouble. And how long did she wait stranded with the crew on the highway? We’ve learned that crew had to wait for a maintenance vehicle and another ambulance.

Meantime, Dia wonders where’s the better service for her? She said, “This is definitely not better service. It’s scary.”

After our initial report aired Cleveland City Hall released a statement that said in part,

“Overall, the fleet is in good condition. We will also have two new units in January and two additional in service by the second quarter. The recent vehicle incidents are generally related to a diesel emissions signal on the truck which causes it to slow down and/or stop. Due to the idle time that our ambulances experience, it creates an extreme duty cycle. The colder weather reduces exhaust temperatures which increases potential issues and causes the signal to activate. We have worked directly with the chassis and engine manufacturer to reduce these issues. We have also increased the maintenance level on these units and provided enhanced training to the operators regarding check engine notifications and procedures.”

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