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Couple faces roadblocks trying to navigate ambulance around Hartford Marathon; AMR responds

HARTFORD -- When truly every minute counts, a couple claims their ambulance ride took nearly triple the time it should have because they were met by roadblocks for the Hartford Marathon.

Chris Norton has been battling brain cancer for five years. His girlfriend, Nakita Gettner, said Norton started new medication Friday and woke up feeling sick, the following day. Being he is prone to seizures, the couple decided to call an ambulance.

The ride should take about 20 minutes from their Plainville home, but they said they ran into problems as they got closer to St. Francis Hospital.

“We went towards Sisson Ave. and could not get down because of roadblocks, asked police officers what way to go, or best route and were redirected several times down different roads, and different routes that all ended up being blocked off,” Gettner said. “The trip that should have taken 20 minutes took about an hour.”

FOX61 reached out to St. Francis Hospital and was directed to the transportation company, American Medical Response, also known as AMR.

AMR said it had both a dispatcher and operation supervisor in the Hartford Police Command center to help route ambulances around the race.

The couple doesn’t blame the EMT’s, rather credits them for working hard to try and get them to the hospital. They said the medics were trying to get directions from dispatch, but kept running into issues.

Gettner said a medic was attending to Norton while also trying to help navigate the driver.

“They were provided maps but the maps weren’t lining up with what was actually closed, police officers wouldn’t let us through barricades, we were a half a mile from right here (St. Francis) and could not get because they wouldn’t stop the race to get us through or provide an escort to get him to the hospital,” Gettner said.

She said luckily, he made it to the hospital but the family’s concern is that there could have been a different outcome.

“What if that was someone else going through something worse?” she said. “We just don’t want this to happen to anyone else, thankfully, he’s okay but it shouldn’t happen the way it happened.”

A spokesperson for the Hartford Marathon said the race efforts are coordinated well in advance, not responding to this incident providing FOX61 with background on the race:

“The marathon and half marathon race routes have been unchanged for years. In addition to providing detailed instructions in advance (posted in August) to ensure the public can access area hospitals during the race, the Hartford Marathon Foundation works closely with public safety officials from Hartford and all impacted communities to ensure the highest level of safety for the public and the participants. Representatives from AMR are on-site in the central command center for the race working in coordination with HPD and race officials.”

The Hartford Marathon has traffic information on its website for those trying to get to several different places including St. Francis Hospital.

An AMR spokesperson said it would release information to FOX61 following a signed patient release form from Norton, which was sent in Monday night.

Norton is a former Sous Chef at Max Downtown in Hartford. Following his cancer diagnosis, he was no longer able to work.

The couple is expecting a baby girl in January.

AMR released the following statement:

"Unfortunately the out of town ambulance crew transporting Mr. Norton was not as familiar with the contingency plans and maps that were in place in Hartford as they could have been.  Steps are being taken to ensure that all crews that might transport into the area during large events will have additional detailed instructions and the communications center is available to route out of town ambulances entering the area."