CARRABASSETT VALLEY — When David Morse, injured in a ski accident, died en route to the hospital in January, the ambulance returned to the ski resort rather than fight through a snowstorm to Franklin Memorial Hospital 45 miles away, according to new details released by the Carrabasett Valley Police Department.
The new details include the sequence of events leading up to when Morse skied off a trail and hit a tree about 3:45 p.m. on Jan. 12, and continues until after Morse, 41, of Harmony, Nova Scotia, died en route to the hospital shortly after 5 p.m.
Emergency responders told police Morse was already losing signs of life as he was loaded into the ambulance, and a ski patrol member drove it, with Morse’s wife in the front seat, as the ambulance crew worked on Morse in the back.
Police said Morse’s wife, Dana Morse, asked to be let out of the ambulance less than a mile into the trip.
The state office that oversees emergency medical services is looking into allegations by Morse’s wife, Dana Morse, that the NorthStar ambulance crew that treated her husband after the accident did not care for him properly.
The Carrabassett Valley police investigation ruled the death accidental. Their investigation does not look into medical treatment issues.
Jay Bradshaw, director of Maine Emergency Medical Services, a division of the state Department of Public Safety, which is investigating the circumstances surrounding Morse’s death, would not discuss the police report, saying privacy laws prevented him from commenting on specific details under investigation. Earlier this week, Bradshaw said the state office dismissed the cases against two of the NorthStar service providers who responded to the incident and did not participate in the patient care.
Dana Morse told the Chronicle Herald in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that the ambulance crew didn’t provide proper medical care to her husband. She is a nurse practitioner, according to the newspaper. She also told the newspaper that the ambulance crew left her by the side of the road about three-tenths of a mile into the journey to the hospital, but police said this week emergency responders told them the skier’s wife asked to be let out.
Morse did not return a message left on her answering machine seeking comment on the police report. On Monday, she said the state office is keeping her updated on its investigation.
Carrabassett Valley police officers James D. King and Vicki M. Gardner compiled the report through interviews with emergency responders, witnesses to the skiing accident and several other people who were at the scene that day. The sequence of events of the emergency response was also drawn up by descriptions from two officers, dispatch records and the police incident report.
The town police department is also a contracted security force for Sugarloaf. There is an emergency dispatch center that serves the community and Sugarloaf as part of the relationship between the town government and resort.
According to the report, Dana Morse told police her husband was in good health and a very good intermediate skier. The couple took a ski lesson in the morning and they ate lunch at their condo, and her husband went out to ski again at 2:30 p.m.
She said it was the fifth day of their ski vacation, the last run of the day and fresh powder had fallen throughout the day, all of which could have contributed to the accident.
She said her husband did not drink alcohol that day and was going out to practice on the fresh snow when the accident happened.
He had gone out skiing that afternoon with their son, two friends from Nova Scotia and their son. According to the report, one man split from the group and headed down the intermediate Timberline Trail.
The other man didn’t see the accident. He arrived moments after it and found Morse (who police have said was wearing goggles and a helmet at the time) in the woods off the trail. He was conscious and said he caught an edge and fell into the trees, the report says.
Other witnesses reported arriving about 4 p.m., shortly after the Sugarloaf Ski Patrol arrived at the accident scene. Ski patrol took Morse down the slope to the Sugarloaf First Aid Clinic, and the emergency dispatch call was made at 4:12 p.m.
A NorthStar ambulance was dispatched at 4:14 p.m., responding to the report that Morse had a leg fracture and possible internal injuries. The ambulance arrived at the clinic at 4:24 p.m.
At 4:46 p.m., a ski patrol official told emergency dispatchers that Morse was losing signs of life and was being loaded into an ambulance to be transported, according to the report.
A ski patrol member had to drive the ambulance, which was headed to Franklin Memorial Hospital, Gardner said Thursday in a phone interview. She said Dana Morse rode in the front and the NorthStar ambulance crew rode in the back to take care of her husband.
Less than a mile into the trip, the ambulance stopped on the resort access road, let Dana Morse out and continued toward the hospital, King said in a phone interview Thursday.
He said emergency responders said that she had asked to be let out of the ambulance.
At 4:53 p.m., Carrabassett Valley Fire Department emergency first responders were dispatched to meet up with the ambulance. The crews gathered at 5:08 p.m., according to the report.
At 5:14 p.m., King was dispatched to meet the ambulance at a nearby garage on Route 27, a short distance from the access road. When King arrived there, emergency responders said David Morse had died, the report states.
King said emergency responders decided to return to the Sugarloaf First Aid Clinic with the body because a snowstorm made road conditions unsafe to continue toward the hospital in Farmington, which is about 45 miles away.
King said he looked for Dana Morse and could not find her on the access road. He went to the condo where they were staying and was told she had returned there briefly before leaving with a family friend to drive to the hospital.
He attempted to call Dana Morse and could not reach her, according to the report.
She later returned to the ski resort and, later that night, a funeral home official removed Morse’s body from the resort, police said.
The police investigation determined there was no foul play and ruled the death accidental, Gardner said.
Gardner, 51, has been with the town police department since October. She has worked in law enforcement for 27 years and retired from the Maine State Police after reaching the rank of sergeant.
King, 44, has been with the town police department for a year. He joined the force after working for about 20 years for a sheriff’s department in Cincinnati.
Witnesses listed in the police report did not return messages seeking comment this week.
Bradshaw has said that a LifeFlight helicopter was not an option after Morse’s accident because of the snowstorm.
The cause of David Morse’s death was chest trauma from the ski accident, the state medical examiner said.
David Robinson — 861-9287