911 Calls Show Urgency Of Richardson Fall

In a Feb. 12, 2009, file photo actress Natasha Richardson arrives at a amfAR gala in New York to kick off fashion week and to raise money for AIDS research. AP Photo/Peter Kramer, File

Radio exchanges between paramedics and dispatchers show that from the outset, they treated Natasha Richardson's fall on a Quebec ski hill as potentially dangerous.

The 45-year-old actress died two days after her fall at Mont Tremblant on March 16th.

The Globe and Mail reports recordings of transmissions between paramedics and a 911 center show the resort's ski patrol and dispatchers treated the accident very seriously.

Richardson had taken a fall on the bunny hill, and the ski patrol called for an ambulance. The call is made at 12:43 p.m., and a 911 center near Mirabel, Quebec, puts forth a Priority 3, 17-Bravo-1 dispatch (meaning the victim had suffered a potentially dangerous fall and medics should get there immediately).

But by the time paramedics arrived, the 45-year old Richardson had refused help, saying she felt OK, and left.

Dispatch receives word from the ski patrol: A 10-3," meaning the job is cancelled. It was 1:11 p.m.

Richardson returned to the Hotel Quintessence unassisted.

But by mid-afternoon, her condition had worsened as she experienced severe headaches.

The hotel called 911. The dispatcher sent the ambulance as highest priority (requiring the ambulance to race to the scene, sirens blaring) and coded "17-Delta-1" (meaning the injury is "dangerous").

Within 45 minutes, medics were driving Richardson to the Centre Hospitalier Laurentien in Sainte-Agathe.

On the way to the hospital (shortly before 4 p.m.), the medic tested Richardson's state, measuring degrees of consciousness on the Glasgow coma scale - 12 out of 15. (A score of 15 reflects a fully-alert subject, but Richardson's 12 - while of concern - is considered treatable.)

But she is confused and disoriented - does not know where she is or what happened to her - and while she can speaks she drifts off.

She is stabilized in a hospital emergency room and prepared for transfer to a trauma center at Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur in Montreal.

A 5:15 p.m. ambulance dispatch is coded "Priority 2 … With oxygen, 10-48 [an escort] and a [heart] monitor."

By 5:55 p.m. she has departed for Montreal, 55 miles away. Her ambulance makes the trip down Highway 15 in less than 45 minutes, arriving at 6:38 p.m.

The Globe and Mail reports that a neurologist at Sacré-Coeur was overheard saying that Richardson's pupils were unresponsive - a sign of advanced brain damage.

The next day she was airlifted to New York. At Lenox Hill Hospital she was taken off life support.
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