Report: Official cause of fatal ambulance crash ‘unknown’

Monday, December 28, 2009 at 5:05pm

The paramedic who was killed when the private ambulance he was driving slammed into the back of a TDOT roadside help truck on Interstate 65 this fall had a history of medical problems, including narcolepsy and epilepsy. These conditions, investigators believe, led to the fatal crash, according to the final report released by Metro Police on Monday.

David Cline, 36, and his passenger, Sue Bly, 78, both died in the crash.

On Oct. 22, Cline, an off-duty City of Franklin firefighter, was returning Bly to an assisted living facility from a dialysis treatment, when he collided with the Tennessee Department of Transportation vehicle sitting on the shoulder of the road between Wedgewood Avenue and the Interstate 440 interchange.

The reasons why the ambulance drifted into the shoulder are "unknown," according to the report. But investigators concluded the driver suffered some type of "seizure or some type of other medical condition that would incapacitate him."

After performing a toxicology examination, police determined Cline had an elevated level of amphetamines in his bloodstream from his prescribed medication for narcolepsy, Adderall. The same report did not find indications his prescribed epilepsy medication, Depakote, was in his system.

Investigators believe Cline was text messaging with his cell phone leading up to the accident, but not during the impact. His cell phone was found on his person, and had he been texting immediately before the crash, the phone would likely have been thrown from his person, the report states.

Cline did have previous incidents involving seizures and car crashes. On Christmas Day 1999, Cline ran off the road and struck a utility pole after he had a seizure, and following the incident, his driver's license was suspended. His credentials were reinstated in March of 2000. He suffered another seizure while working his day job as a Franklin firefighter, "three or four years prior" to the deadly crash.

5 Comments on this post:

By: dustywood on 12/29/09 at 7:48

Makes one wonder if this person was allowed to drive because of his disabililty. So many times you are required to do unsafe things, hoping that the problem is gone., because of disabilty insurance requirements. Too bad that someone got hurt. DUI's of any kind get back on the road with or without a license. May or may not injure or kill someone else. Prescribed drugs have side affects that could have altered his dose. No one will truly know. He was just trying to make a living.

By: wataboutbob on 12/29/09 at 8:47

I am very sorry for Mr. Cline's family and friends but how could he be allowed to drive any vehicle with his medical background and past history? Sounds like grounds for a major lawsuit.

By: Waterdog on 12/29/09 at 12:42

By law, I believe you must be seizure free for one year to be able to get your driving privileges back. If I were him, I'm not sure I would have taken that chance and maybe let someone else drive while he tended the patients. But hindsight's 20-20, I know. I just hope he was already seizing or unconscious at impact and didn't suffer.

By: sidneyames on 12/29/09 at 1:19

A responsible person would not have taken such a serious job protecting the lives of others when they, themselves, had questionable performance issues. Narcolepsy is a serious medical issue. That's about tantamount to a guy with the same condition thinking he's safe enough to fly a plane.

Dusty, someone didn't just get hurt; they died as a result of his seizure, apparently.

By: alexx1974 on 12/29/09 at 6:41

I am a 35-year-old with Narcolepsy. I have been a licensed driver since the age of 16, and have never had an at-fault automobile crash.

That being said, I would NEVER accept employment wherein I was responsible for driving others someplace when time was of the essence. I personally understand very well that adrenalin is often an antidote to the sleepiness caused by Narcolepsy, which explains why being a firefighter or paramedic would be an ideal job for a sufferer.

However, being the DRIVER is a terrible idea. Medication almost always works, but there are times when it does not. There are a lot of things one is capable of doing while sleepy, but driving is not one of them. Drowsy driving is an impairment on the level of drunk driving. If you are driving yourself or your family somewhere, you can pull over until it passes. if you're speeding down the interstate trying to get a patient to the ER before they die, what do you do?