NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today that a Bronx County grand jury returned an indictment charging Juan Garcia, a former ambulette driver, with criminally negligent homicide for causing the death of an 86-year-old nursing home resident. The passenger, a resident of Gold Coast Care Center of the Bronx, died one month after she was seriously injured when she was ejected from her wheelchair during medical transport. The indictment filed against Garcia also charges him with Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person. Garcia faces up to 4 years in prison.
“This ambulette driver was entrusted with the well-being of his wheelchair-bound patient. Had he taken the most basic safety precautions, this vulnerable nursing home resident would not have died in this horrific way,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “My office will hold medical providers accountable for criminal negligence."
On August 13, 2010, Garcia was driving the resident back to Gold Crest Care Center from a dialysis appointment. The driver, who was then working for Maeleen Ambulette Transport, Inc., admitted to Attorney General investigators that he failed to buckle the resident’s seatbelt before their return trip. At the intersection of Eastchester Road and Pelham Parkway at about 6:30 p.m., Garcia stopped the ambulette short and the elderly passenger was ejected from her wheelchair and thrown to the floor of the vehicle.
Instead of taking the visibly injured passenger, who cried out in pain, to a nearby hospital, Garcia drove to Gold Crest Care Center, which was farther away. Garcia even ignored a request from a certified nurse’s assistant who was on board to take the victim to the hospital. When the resident was finally taken to the hospital, she was diagnosed with a fractured hip and underwent surgery. The passenger never recovered from her injuries, and she died about one month after the incident due to complications from her injuries and surgery.
Garcia, 49, of the Bronx, was arraigned today in Bronx County Supreme Court before the Honorable William McGuire. The defendant was released on his own recognizance.
The charges against the defendant are mere accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The investigation was conducted by Supervising Special Investigator Mitchell Scher, Special Investigator Edward Keegan and Medical Analyst Maureen Kurth.
The prosecution is being handled by Special Assistant Attorneys General Lissette Fernandez and Betty Rodriguez, under the supervision of Cassandra Bethel, Chief of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s New York City Patient Protection Unit; Monica Hickey-Martin, Deputy Attorney General for the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit; and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.