Ambulance passenger dies following traffic incident

Police say woman slid off bench seat, struck her head

Published On: Nov 28 2012 06:23:11 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 03 2012 03:41:26 PM CST
FITCHBURG, Wis. -

A Monona family is dealing with the loss of two parents after an incident involving a private ambulance.

The incident happened just after 5 p.m. Monday on South Fish Hatchery Road and Brendan Avenue.

The elderly couple died within hours of each other early Tuesday afternoon.

Laurel Huibregtse, 85, was riding in the back of a non-emergency ambulance, escorting her husband, 86-year-old Don Huibregtse, to hospice.

Fitchburg police said that during the transport, the ambulance had to hit the brakes, causing Laurel Huibregtse to slide off her seat.

"And then obviously the force from an abrupt stop caused her to slide straight off the bench seat and then (she) struck a piece of the cabinetry or the equipment with the side of her head," sad Lt. Chad Brecklin, of the Fitchburg Police Department.

Authorities said the Ryan Brothers ambulance driver had to brake after a vehicle in front attempted a U-turn at Fish Hatchery Road and Brendan Avenue.

There was no collision, but police said Laurel Huibregtse was seated in the back of the ambulance unbuckled.

"That's one of the things we're looking at as part of the investigation here is to determine what legal responsibility either the driver or the ambulance folks had to make sure any passengers were belted, or what responsibilities the passenger may have had to be buckled," Brecklin said.

After the injury, Laurel Huibregtse was transported to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, where she died hours apart from her husband. Don Huibregtse was taken to hospice, where he died.

WISC-TV attempted to find any laws or rules when it comes to seating ambulance passengers but found that every organization has its own policies and procedures in place, and the rules vary across the board.

Fitchburg police said they don't expect to file criminal charges, but citations may be pending.

The Ryan Brothers Ambulance company declined to comment on the incident.