Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Patient dies after woman blocked ambulance with her car

Patient dies after woman blocked ambulance with her car in dispute over shared driveway
By Rebecca Camber
Gillian Birdsall

Gillian Birdsall, 50, is accused of deliberately blocking in an ambulance

A man died after a neighbour blocked in an ambulance taking him to hospital, a court has been told.

Malcolm Burdett, 62, was being wheeled out of his house when Gillian Birdsall parked her car on their shared driveway.

A court heard that when paramedics asked her to move it, she replied: 'Why, are they dead?'

The 50-year-old finally agreed to shift her Citroen but her actions were said to have caused a ten-minute delay in Mr Burdett getting medication.

The piano teacher and father-of-two, who had severe chest pains, died in hospital little more than an hour later.

Birdsall appeared in court on Tuesday charged with obstructing an emergency vehicle.

Magistrates heard that she told police she had been in a hurry to take her dogs for a walk and was frustrated at motorists parking on her patch of driveway.

Anna Marie Mills told the court that she confronted Birdsall while her paramedic colleague carried out an electrocardiogram test in the back of the ambulance.

'I asked her how long she was going to be parked there as being an emergency vehicle we would need to leave shortly,' she said.

'She just responded saying it was a shared driveway. We discussed that the patient obviously needed to be in hospital urgently.'

Miss Mills said that had they not been delayed 'I would have been able to get the medication quicker and we would have left quicker'.


Dispute: Gillian Birdsall's house on the left. The ambulance was parked in the drive to the Burdett's house on the right when she blocked it in

Charlie Butterworth, prosecuting, said: 'It was deliberate, obstructive and calculated to be difficult.

'Her actions both caused an obstruction and hindered them in their work. The defendant was comprehensively informed that it was an emergency vehicle, she had every opportunity to see the vehicle and move hers out of the way. She had no excuse.

'The ambulance crew were obstructed in carrying out their duty in an emergency.'

She added: 'There was no suggestion the defendant's actions were in any way a contributory factor in Mr Burdett's death.'

Linda Newton, a neighbour, told Bournemouth magistrates of her shock at the incident outside her home in the Dorset resort on October 31 last year.

'She [Birdsall] looked very agitated and said what a waste of ambulance people's time,' she said. 'I couldn't believe it.

'I came back out again and I heard Mrs Birdsall shouting at the ambulance lady, saying "Has anybody died?" really sarcastically.

'And she repeated it again, "Has anybody died?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing.'

Birdsall, who has two part-time jobs, later told police she did not realise it was an emergency vehicle.

She told officers: 'It feels that whenever I am in the drive I'm in the wrong. I thought it was one of those ambulances they use to pick people up but did not think it was a real ambulance.

'I wouldn't intentionally block an emergency vehicle. I am ashamed of the fact I did say "Is anybody dead?". But at that time I was angry.'

The married mother-of-two denies obstruction. The case continues.

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