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South Park Ambulance District patient death raises questions about paramedic response

911 audio reveals Beryl Harman wanted to go to the hospital, but documents point to a medical refusal
South Park Ambulance District
Posted at 10:36 PM, Oct 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-11 17:59:20-04

HARTSEL, Colo. — A 67-year-old woman died in her home after her husband called 911 for help, asking for her to be transported to the hospital. Now, her family, as well as veteran paramedics, are questioning the decisions made on scene that day and blowing the whistle on what they say is a culture problem within the South Park Ambulance District.

“My wife says she needs to go to the hospital,” Daniel Harman said to a 911 operator on a fall day in November 2021. “She’s just so super weak she cant move… She’s not as coherent as she should be.”

The anxious husband said he was trying to relay that his wife, Beryl, needed and wanted emergency care.

“She's asking if they're coming. I said they're coming,” Daniel said during the call.

But the outcome of that call — made inside the Harman home off a rural Colorado backroad 29 minutes outside of Fairplay — didn’t go as planned. Beryl was never taken to the hospital. Nearly two years later, her daughter, Megan Marquez, still questions why.

“I just wish my mom was still here,” Marquez said. “I would like to know what happened and why. And most of all, I want them to know their actions have consequences and our life is completely different because of it.”

The coroner's report lists Beryl’s official cause of death as “complications of COVID-19.” But two sources, both veteran paramedics who used to work for the ambulance district, said there’s more to the story.

“This has kept me awake at night for years,” said Paramedic One, who asked Denver7 Investigates to disguise their identity. “I'm afraid if someone doesn't come out and bring this into the light, more people will die.”

“It's time that more awareness is brought to this problem,” said Paramedic Two, who also asked not to be identified.

“This crew left this woman to die,” Paramedic One said.

Daniel remembers the day his wife was left behind, after he made the call from inside their home. He also remembers the moment she died.

“I just broke down and said, ‘Beryl, please,’” Daniel said. “It hurt to see that… knowing I didn't get to say goodbye.”

Daniel said he wanted his wife to go to the hospital. And according to what he told operators on that first 911 call, she wanted to go, too. Instead, paramedics responded to the call but left the scene without her.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, she should have been taken to the hospital,” paramedic one told Denver7 Investigates.

“This patient should have been transported to the hospital,” Paramedic Two said.

At the center of the controversy are the documents from South Park Ambulance District from the day Beryl died.

The two former paramedics said Beryl’s medical records show her condition required an emergency transport. Instead, the responding paramedic documented the 67-year-old signed a medical refusal, essentially a written justification for allowing her to stay in her home and die.

“Based on the physical findings that are documented within this paperwork here... the paramedic, if they are doing their job, should be doing everything in their power to convince this patient to go to the hospital,” Paramedic One said.

Thirty-five minutes after paramedics obtained a refusal and drove away, Daniel called 911 reporting that his wife had died.

“I think my wife just died,” he said. “She hasn’t moved. I don’t see no breath, I don’t feel no pulse.”

“This call from the day it happened did not sit well with me or the department. But nothing was ever done about it,” said Hartsel Fire Chief Brian Cook, who responded to the second 911 call from Beryl’s husband. “I think questions being asked on this call definitely need to be asked."

“Something is missing there,” Marquez said. “If only answers could bring her back."

Denver7 Investigates reached out to the paramedics on this call, who did not respond for comment.

Denver7 Investigates brought these questions to the current chief of paramedics at South Park Ambulance District, who said the call was conducted properly. His response to the Harman family's claims will be aired in Part II of this series on Denver7 at 10 p.m. Friday.

Editor's note on Oct. 11, 2023: A broadcast version of this story mentioned the month that Beryl passed away as being November, but the event occurred in October. The story will be modified to reflect the correct month.

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