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Icy pond crash fatal for alum

Submitted by Cameron Moix on January 31, 2013 – 4:42 pm3 Comments

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock nursing school graduate was recently killed in a vehicular accident in which it took more than half an hour for emergency personnel to reach her submerged vehicle, according to reports.

Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Jinglei Yi, 39, died the morning of Jan. 14 after she lost control of her Ford Expedition while driving in icy conditions and crashed into a pond near Cooper Orbit Road in west Little Rock. Yi was able to dial 911 with her cell phone at 7:57 a.m. from the partially submerged vehicle, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. But Candace Middleton, who took the emergency call and stayed on the line with Yi for about 14 minutes, neglected to relay the call to police and fire dispatchers due to an error, state officials have said. Nearly 40 minutes later, around 8:36 a.m., responders were able to retrieve Yi and her 5-year-old son, Leo Yang from the SUV.

Yi was immediately rushed to Baptist Medical Center, where personnel made failed attempts to warm her organs and save her life, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She was pronounced dead at 11:45 a.m. Leo Yang remained in critical condition at Arkansas Children’s Hospital’s  intensive care unit for several days. Little Rock TV station KTHV reported Tuesday, Jan. 28 that the boy has since been “listed in fair condition” and “has been breathing on his own since last week.”

Middleton, the 911 operator who fielded the early-morning distress call, was placed on paid administrative leave the following day, Jan. 15, according to a Little Rock Police Department spokesman. While the operator has not been charged with any wrongdoing, her leave from the agency is currently pending investigation. The investigation into Middleton’s possible mishandling of the emergency call is being handled by the agency’s internal affairs detectives.

According to reports, Middleton notified Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services but failed to notify Little Rock Fire and Little Rock Police departments. So when MEMS arrived at the scene at about 8:17 a.m., they were forced to call for backup. Reports show that it took crews 12 minutes to drive to the site, keeping personnel from LRFD’s water-rescue team from getting into the water another 22 minutes after the call from MEMS.

“Little Rock Fire Department spokesman Capt. Randy Hickmon said that if Yi and Le could have reached the top of the SUV and been able to stay there, the first fire crew that arrived may have been able to toss them a rope and life jackets, and pull them to shore,” according to a Jan. 17 story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “Other than water-rescue team members, he said, firefighters are not equipped to walk into water above their boot tops, especially when the water is freezing. ‘With 30- to 35-degree water, a human won’t last after five minutes [of exposure],’ Hickmon said. If two firefighters had gone in, he said, ‘in this water, we would have been rescuing two more people.’”

Yi graduated from UALR with an associate degree in nursing in Dec.. 2011. She was born in Shanxi, China and is survived by her husband Dayong Yang. Yi worked as a nurse at Baptist Medical Center.