Milwaukee Fire Department reviewing its response to woman who died at bus stop after slipping on ice

The Milwaukee Fire Department confirmed Tuesday that a 911 call was made at 5:22 for distress from Jolene. That's when Curtis Ambulance was dispatched.
Jolene Waldref
Posted at 1:08 PM, Jan 31, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-31 14:10:01-05

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Fire Department is reviewing its response to the death of 49-year-old Jolene Waldref.

Waldref died on January 15th near the intersection of 76th and Congress after slipping and falling on ice. Waldref attempted to dial 911 and her family says her death could have been prevented.

The Milwaukee Fire Department confirmed Tuesday that a 911 call was made at 5:22 P.M. for distress from Jolene. That's when Curtis Ambulance was dispatched for what the Fire Department is calling a "low priority call."

The CEO of Curtis Ambulance Service, Jim Baker, says his crews could not find Jolene Waldref when they responded to 76th and Congress. According to MFD, Jolene called 9-1-1 at 5:22. Curtis Ambulance was dispatched and arrived at the area within four minutes.

Baker said his crews were unable to spot Jolene due to multiple factors. “The patient was not upright; the patient was hidden by objects and was not actually at the bus station.”

GPS records obtained from Curtis Ambulance show the crew's location pinged multiple times around the intersection of 76th and Congress. Baker said his crews drove around the intersection looking at each corner. However, Baker said they never got out of the ambulance to look.

“They were on scene for 6 or 7 minutes. They attempted to call the patient back. They notified the dispatch center, and they took another call,” Baker explained.

When asked why his crews didn't get out of the ambulance to search the area, Jim explained his crews get sent out on many calls throughout the day.

"You do the best you can, to a certain extent, you can't do patient searches for 300 patients a day,” Baker explained.

According to Assistant Chief Joshua Parish with the Milwaukee Fire Department, about 22 minutes later a woman found Jolene and called 9-1-1.

"That response by the Milwaukee Fire Department was approximately 22 minutes after that first call, our response time was approximately six minutes,” Assistant Chief Joshua Parish said.

Surveillance video from a nearby apartment shows the woman stop her car to get out and help Jolene. She told me on the phone Tuesday afternoon that Jolene was visible.

MFD says its protocols are based on the caller and situation. Curtis Ambulance doesn’t think any policy change is needed. "We look at the situation like this and we go: Is a protocol change necessary? In this case I don't think it is,” Baker explained.

Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski offered condolences to the family of Waldref.