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Paramedic Reinstated After Being Suspended Over Drowning Response

COLLIN COUNTY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - A Collin County paramedic is back on the job after she said she was unfairly suspended by her company for trying to save a life.

Liz Day was suspended by American Medical Response after she jumped into a Melissa quarry two weekends ago trying to save 18-year-old drowning victim Xzavion Epps.

Day said she was one of the first to arrive at the scene.

"In a situation like this seconds matter," Day said.

Liz Day
Liz Day - Collin County paramedic (CBS11)

Day said she had received permission from Melissa Police Department's incident commander to get in the water with another officer as long as they were wearing life jackets.

Day said she complied, jumped in, tried to rescue Epps, but he didn't make it.

Day said she filed an incident report and submitted it to her supervisors.

"I was called into our Dallas office and was advised I'd be placed on administrative leave without pay pending an investigation," Day said.

She said she was told she violated one of the AMR's policies.

"It basically states that an employee is not to enter a dangerous environment without it being made safe to do so first by either police or by fire," Day said.

Day believes the environment was as safe as it could be. She said she had been given permission to enter the water by police and was wearing a life jacket.

"Public safety itself is an inherently dangerous job and in a situation like this our first priority should be in saving lives," Day said. "It was just very frustrating to do something and feel like I did the best I could this was the outcome."

A spokesperson for AMR said the Melissa Fire Department reported Day was never given permission to enter the water. The company now acknowledges the confusion. After receiving a request for comment from CBS11, AMR has decided to reinstate Day. She will be paid for any missed shifts.

The following is AMR Texas Vice President of Operations Steven Dralle's response to Day's supension:

"On May 27, we received an emergency call to a potential drowning in a Melissa rock quarry. This was a difficult situation all the way around. A young man lost his life, and we are heartbroken for his family and friends.

After responding to the call, our leadership team received communication from the Melissa Fire Department stating that during the course of the call, one of our team members, Paramedic Liz Day, entered the water without permission from the incident commander on scene. There were conflicting statements from our personnel regarding whether they had permission to enter the water or not.

In instances where we are notified about differing on-scene accounts, AMR employs a program called "Just Culture." With this program, we do not jump to conclusions. Instead, we gather information and conduct interviews, which allows us to review all incidents thoroughly to determine next steps.

We have been performing a review of this response since last Thursday. While we were reviewing the accounts, we temporarily put Ms. Day on administrative leave, which is our standard protocol. As a result of numerous discussions, we discovered the possibility that there were conflicting perceptions about whether she was aware that she should not enter the water to try to attempt a rescue. Such confusion is not out of the ordinary during situations that are fast-paced, particularly as concern for the person intensifies during time-sensitive situations. We are certain that she did what she thought was right in this situation. As first responders we understand her commitment to save a life. Because we found somewhat differing statements about the response during our review, we have fully reinstated Paramedic Day, she will be paid for shifts missed as a result of the investigative process.

Through this review, we also have found an opportunity to educate all of our teams about safety procedures and avoiding situations where our crews put themselves or others at risk. Our goal as an organization is to balance the safety of our crews with following on-scene safety protocols. The investigation found concerns that some on scene attempted a water rescue without utilizing normal safety procedures other than a personal flotation device. There is no doubt that the job of all first responders can be fraught with risk and danger, particularly in water or fire rescue situations. The AMR family knows first-hand how heartbreaking it is to lose a team member and we want to avoid this at all costs. Just two weekends ago, we enshrined three of our employees who lost their lives in the line of duty during the past year. We know how dangerous the job of a first responder can be, so we take the safety of our crews in all situations with utmost seriousness.

We appreciate the patience of our employee, our AMR Collin County Operations team and the Fire Department as we followed our Just Culture protocols and allowed us to clear up any questions. Most importantly, we stand with Mr. Epps' family and the citizens of Collin County as we mourn the loss of a life taken too soon."

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