Ambulance patient died because a paramedic fell asleep at the wheel


Ambulance patient died because paramedic fell asleep at the wheel and rolled off an embankment after 11 shifts in 12 days

  • Matthew James McLean pleaded not guilty to one count of causing death
  • The charges relate to the death of Karen Biddell who was being treated for stomach ulcers
  • Another ambulance officer and Mrs. Biddell’s daughter were also injured in the crash
  • In post-accident checks, there was no trace of drugs or alcohol in his system

A paramedic fell asleep at the wheel of his ambulance and caused a crash that killed a woman who was taken to hospital in Adelaide, a court has heard.

Matthew James McLean has been tried in South Australian District Court after pleading not guilty to one charge of causing death from dangerous driving and twice causing damage.

The charges relate to the death of 48-year-old Karen Biddell who was transported from her home near Port Pirie to Adelaide for non-urgent leg ulcer treatment.

At around 2.30 am on 16 August 2016, the ambulance turned onto a dike and rolled over.

Matthew James McLean (pictured right) has been tried in South Australian District Court after pleading not to be guilty of one charge of causing death from dangerous driving

Matthew James McLean (pictured right) has been tried in South Australian District Court after pleading not to be guilty of one charge of causing death from dangerous driving

Another ambulance officer and the deceased woman’s daughter were also injured in the crash.

Prosecutor Mark Norman SC opened the crown case on Wednesday, telling the court that the ambulance was on cruise control when it started curving off the road.

At one point it hit a small tree, and while the driver fought to get it back under control, it ran up an embankment.

All of that made the ambulance roll. It rolled over once and actually ends up upright, ”said Mr. Norman.

The prosecutor said after the crash, McLean told people at the scene that he had fallen asleep and that he had stopped to get coffee before the accident to “ keep himself going. ”

The allegations relate to the death of 48-year-old Karen Biddell (photo)

The court was told that the paramedic had worked 11 shifts in the past 12 days, including four night shifts in the five days before the crash.

Mr Norman said McLean had volunteered to work overtime in the days leading up to the accident when he would normally have been off.

In post-accident checks, there was no trace of drugs or alcohol in his system.

But in an opening statement, defender Stephen Apps said an expert had determined that his client was suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea at the time.

“You are being asked to discover, as a reasonable possibility, that Mr. McLean was suffering from sleep apnea at the time of the incident, which caused him to fall asleep suddenly without warning,” Mr. Apps told the jury.

He said McLean would not have driven that night if he were aware of the risks.

The trial continued.

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