False Report of Death Spurs 2 Investigations

Times Staff Writer

Two Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics who had incorrectly pronounced a 63-year-old Sylmar man dead were assigned Friday to desk duty, pending the outcome of two separate investigations.

Fire Chief Donald Manning said the department will conduct an investigation into the Thursday afternoon incident. So will the state Department of Health Services, which certifies paramedics.

The man, identified as Kenneth Smith, was in serious but stable condition Friday in the intensive care unit at Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills. He had been left for dead Thursday for almost two hours before being revived by a deputy coroner sent to remove the body, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Assistant Fire Chief Gerald Johnson refused to identify the paramedics who had pronounced Smith dead except to say one is a 10-year veteran and the other has worked for the department about four years.

"We're going to bring them in and have them write some very comprehensive reports about their actions," Johnson said.

Manning said the paramedics were called to the Los Olivos trailer park at 15831 Olden St. about 3:15 p.m. after they had received a call from Smith's wife. She said that her husband was in a locked shed and that she was worried because he was on medication and may have taken too many pills, Manning said.

When the paramedics arrived, they broke into the locked shed and found Smith sprawled across his workbench, Johnson said. The paramedics pronounced him dead at 3:35 p.m., he said.

"From what we can tell, they checked pulse, skin coloring, stiffness, and made the pronouncement, which they have the right to do," Johnson said.

The paramedics then called police and left the scene, Johnson said. Police notified the coroner's office, and Deputy Coroner Phillip Campbell arrived at the trailer park about 5:15 p.m., Johnson said.

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