Dying man ‘badly burned by sparks from a defibrillator’ that set hospital floor on FIRE as nurses tried and failed to resuscitate him
- Robert Allen, 70, was taken to Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, in February needing CPR
- He found dead with burn marks on his shoulder and back when firefighters arrived
- The defibrillator used to resuscitate him sparked and ignited oxygen that had been left on
- A fire started, filling the 10th floor of the hospital with smoke
A patient’s body was set on fire after the defibrillator being used to resuscitate him exploded.
Robert Allen, 70, was found dead with burn marks on his shoulder and back when firefighters arrived at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, in February.
Staff insisted Allen was dead before the fire started, but new police reports reveal it was caused by the equipment being pressed against his body.
According to the incident report, first published by KHOU 11, the defibrillator swung in an arc, ‘a spark went off and ignited the oxygen in the room that had been accidentally left on.’
Minutes later, a nurse at the hospital called 911, saying, according to call logs: ‘Yes, the 10th floor is full of smoke! And we’re pulling the people out and trying to get the oxygen shut off, but you can’t even see down the hall the smoke is so bad.’
Robert Allen, 70, was found dead with burn marks on his shoulder and back when firefighters arrived at Methodist Hospital (pictured) in San Antonio, Texas, in February
She added: ‘No, we’ve had seven fire extinguishers head that way down that hall, but you can’t even see down that hall.
‘It’s so bad we’ve got people coming out choking.’
Most CPR and first aid training courses direct medics to turn off any oxygen before administering a defibrillator.
Oxygen is not flammable but it aids combustion, setting the stage for a fire – as has happened numerous times in hospital settings.
The problem in many cases is that a patient might require oxygen, an EKG (a heart scan using electrodes), and a defibrillator at the same time – a Catch-22 situation.
According to a case study in 1994, in the journal Health Devices, ‘oxygen enriches the space around the patient’s head and chest and allows an electric arc sometimes produced during defibrillation discharge to ignite body hair. The fire flashes rapidly over the patient, consuming body hair and igniting nearby bedding materials and medical devices.’
The American Heart Association recommends putting as much weight onto the defibrillator pads as possible (ideally at least 25lbs per pad) to prevent any space for interference, and to plug in any EKG electrodes as far from the pads as possible.
A spokesman for the hospital said in a statement: ‘We reported the incident to authorities and conducted an internal review to help ensure this does not happen in the future.
‘The safety of our patients is a high priority for us; we regret this incident occurred but are grateful to our staff for reacting quickly in extinguishing the fire and continuing to care for patients.’