Claims Bill Tops $1 Million in Ambulance Crash

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By: Julie Montanaro
February 9, 2016

A Tallahassee woman - critically injured in an ambulance crash - is awaiting a vote on a million dollar claims bill.

The Tharpe Street collision was caught on tape that night in September 2013.

Angela Sanford suffered a broken pelvis, two broken legs and a traumatic brain injury. Deputies later found the ambulance driver at fault.

According to Sanford's lawyer Hal Lewis, Leon County settled Sanford's civil lawsuit for $1.4 million. Lewis says the county has already paid $300,000, but the legislature must approve the rest.

Tallahassee Senator Bill Montford is sponsoring the $1.15 million claims bill in the Senate. He addressed fellow senators at a committee meeting this morning.

"Mrs. Sanford has had a great recovery but will have lifelong physical and cognitive injuries due to this accident including the need for future surgeries such as hip replacement," Montford said.

The claims bill passed unanimously in a senate committee this morning. It has one more committee stop before a full senate vote.

A similar claims bill has been filed in the house.

By Julie Montanaro
May 5, 2014

A Tallahassee woman critically injured when an ambulance struck her husband's car is now suing Leon County EMS for 10 million dollars.

The family filed that lawsuit today.

The impact of the crash was caught on tape. A Leon County ambulance was running lights and sirens to a crash last September when it collided with an SUV at the intersection of Tharpe Street and MLK Boulevard.

Angela Sanford - a passenger in that SUV - was critically hurt . She suffered a broken pelvis, two broken legs and a traumatic brain injury.

"It's slow. You want it like, today, tomorrow... you want everything to be back to normal and normal is different. It's painful," Angela Sanford said Monday.

Deputies deemed the ambulance driver at fault in the crash and the Sanfords are now suing Leon County EMS for $10 million dollars.

The family says the county's insurance company offered just $200,000 as a settlement.

"You know the first month in the hospital ... it's not enough to cover that," her husband Pat Sanford said.

"The damages are clearly there, the liability is clearly there. What I still don't understand is why there's been no settlement," family attorney Hal Lewis said.

Angela is walking now, but she still suffers from intense pain and is not able to care for the couple's three children. Her husband has exhausted his vacation and sick leave and they've had to hire a full time live in nanny.

Angela goes to physical therapy three times a week and is starting cognitive therapy to address her brain injury.

They don't know what they'll do when some of those benefits run out this summer.

"You know, I thought that's what insurance is for," Pat Sanford said. "So we just want the insurance company to step up and do the right thing."

Leon County attorney Herb Thiele says he cannot comment on the pending lawsuit.

He says the county has a three million dollar liability policy with OneBeacon Insurance.

Generally it's up to them, he says, to decide whether to settle or go to trial "with input from the County."

We have also reached out to the attorney for OneBeacon Insurance for comment but have not yet heard back.

By: Julie Montanaro
November 8, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - A couple who survived a crash with an ambulance speaks out for the first time.

The Sanfords were on their way home from a concert that night and never imagined how drastically their lives would change at the corner of Tharpe Street and MLK.

"You hear people say your life can change in the blink of an eye, but you don't realize it until it happens to you," Pat Sanford said.

Pat and Angie Sanford's lives changed on September 5th when deputies say an ambulance that was heading lights and sirens to another crash t-boned their car at more than 40 miles an hour.

"I don't remember any of it," Angie Sanford said as she sat in a wheelchair in her living room Friday.

Angie Sanford was sitting in the front passenger seat that night and bore the brunt of the collision.

"The emergency room doctor came and told me she was in surgery right then and may not make it ... that's when I realized how bad it was," Pat Sanford said.

Angie Sanford had a shattered pelvis, broken ribs, a broken leg, internal injuries and a traumatic brain injury.

"She had periods of not knowing me, not knowing who the kids were. I would show her pictures and she didn't recognize the kids," Pat Sanford said.

Angie Sanford spent 30 days in ICU, five weeks in a rehab hospital and came home just last week.

"I never would have expected at this moment in my life I would have to be taken care of by my friends and family and my kids are having to help take care of their mom," she said.

The Sanfords - on the advice of their attorney - will not talk about the crash itself.

The impact was caught on tape by the ambulance dashboard camera. Deputies deemed the ambulance driver at fault for failing to to stop at the red light to check for traffic before proceeding through the intersection.

The Sanford's life is now consumed by medication, physical therapy and trying to care for their three children who range in age from 18 months to 13 years.

"I hope through rehab and therapy. I'm going to be able to get up on both my feet again and hopefully I'll be able to walk again," Angie Sanford said.

"They said most people with that many mass traumas would not even survive what she had," Pat Sanford said. "We're not going to stop here. We're going to continue on until she's back."

The Sanfords say family, friends and even strangers have showered them with help by bringing meals, watching the kids and even mowing the lawn.

The Sanford's attorney has already notified Leon County he intends to sue for medical bills, lost wages and more.

The ambulance driver involved in the crash was suspended for three days without pay. According to Leon County Spokesman Jon Brown, he will serve that suspension on November 19th, 20th and 21st.

By: Julie Montanaro
October 30, 2013

A Leon County ambulance driver has been suspended in the wake of a crash that left a woman in a coma.

It happened September 5th at the intersection of Tharpe Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Deputies say the ambulance was running lights and sirens to a crash when it broadsided an SUV.

The SUV's front seat passenger Angela Sanford was critically injured. Initially she was in a coma and is now trying to recover from a broken pelvis, two broken legs, brain injuries and more.

The Leon County Sheriff's Office found the ambulance driver was at fault.

"Certainly the ambulance driver didn't mean to hurt anyone," Sanford family attorney Hal Lewis said, "but he certainly flat out ignored the county policy which says the ambulance should come to a complete stop at the intersection, make sure it's safe before travelling through the intersection."

There is dashcam video from the ambulance that night. It clearly shows the collision as well the impact to EMS workers inside the ambulance.

Leon County's EMS Director and public information officer refused to do an on camera interview with us. They did release a statement saying:

"Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family. There are inherent risks associated with our emergency medical response and it's a very tough job for our first responders. Fortunately, accidents like these are rare, but we take them very seriously and go to great lengths to learn from all of them."

Leon County spokesman Jon Brown says ambulance driver Ben Hunter was suspended for three days without pay and will have to take another driving course.

Brown says there will be no changes to its policies as a result of the crash.

This week the Sanford family filed paperwork and announced its intent to sue to try to recover medical bills, lost wages and more that will run into the millions.

Press Release: Leon County Sheriff's Office

On Thursday, September 6, 2013 at 11:28 pm, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene of a traffic crash involving a Leon County EMS ambulance and a 2011 Buick SUV. The preliminary investigation has indicated the ambulance was responding to a traffic crash in the area and was operating with emergency lights and sirens activated. The ambulance was traveling west on Tharpe Street approaching the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard.

At the same time, a 2011 Buick SUV was traveling north on Martin Luther King Boulevard approaching the intersection of Tharpe Street. The traffic signal was green on Martin Luther King Boulevard allowing traffic to flow north and south.

The ambulance approached the intersection, observed other north and south bound traffic stopped and proceeded through the intersection, striking the Buick on the passenger’s side.

All three occupants of the Buick were transported to Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare. The driver and rear passenger of the Buick sustained non-life threatening injuries and were released. The front seat passenger of the Buick remains in critical condition. Both paramedics in the ambulance sustained minor injuries.

The investigation into the circumstances surrounding this crash is still under investigation; however, there are no indications that alcohol was a factor in this crash.

September 6, 2013
1:25 am

Tallahassee, FL - According to the Tallahassee Police Department a head on collision at Tharpe and Old Bainbridge caused multiple injuries, two victims sustaining life-threatening injuries. Police say the crash is being treated as a crime scene, and alcohol may have been a factor.

EMS crews rushing to this accident crashed themselves, minutes later. This accident occurred at the intersection of Tharpe and MLK Blvd. An ambulance took out an electrical pole and a traffic control box, strewing electric wires across the road. According to the Leon County Sheriff's Office four people were transported to the hospital including the driver and passenger in the ambulance.

September 5, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - A head on collision shortly before 11pm shut down the intersection of Tharpe and Old Bainbridge tonight in Tallahassee.

Tallahassee EMS units then also crashed. They were at the intersection of Tharpe and MLK Blvd. and suffered heavy front end damage. Power lines were reported in the street, and City of Tallahassee Utilities crews are heading to the scene.

WCTV has reporters on scene and will bring you more information as it becomes available.

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