Two EMTs on a coffee break who failed to help a dying pregnant woman acted "to the best of their abilities," their lawyer said Tuesday, while the woman's mother condemned them as "inhuman."
The EMTs, Jason Green and Melissa Jackson, were suspended without pay and the Brooklyn district attorney opened a criminal investigation into the case. State health officials, who called the inaction "appalling," were also investigating along with the city's fire department, which oversees EMTs.
The two emergency workers were at the eatery when Eutisha Rennix, an employee, collapsed. Witnesses have said the EMTs told workers to call 911, then left when they were asked to help the woman, a mother of a 3-year-old son who was expecting her second child.
Cynthia Rennix, the 25-year-old woman's mother said, the EMTs shouldn't have taken those jobs if they weren't willing to get involved in emergency situations.
"You are very inhuman; you don't need to have a job like you do," she said.
Douglas Rosenthal, the EMTs' lawyer, pushed back against what he called a "rush to judgment" that had vilified his clients. He said the facts will show that Green and Jackson acted "appropriately to the best of their abilities" at Au Bon Pain in Brooklyn on Dec. 9. He declined to speak more specifically about the situation.
Rennix had complained of feeling dizzy before collapsing in the rear of the store, according to a person who saw it happen. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the person wasn't authorized to speak publicly.
Green and Jackson, who are emergency service dispatchers, were in the front of the store making their order, the person said. The witness never saw them go into the back where Rennix was before they left the premises.
That witness said Rennix, who was six months pregnant with a girl, was also an asthma sufferer.
Rennix died at a hospital shortly afterward, her baby too premature to survive.
Cynthia Rennix said she didn't know the cause of her daughter's death. Calls to the hospital where she died weren't returned Tuesday.
The city medical examiner didn't perform an autopsy because the death wasn't part of a crime scene, spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said. Borakove said an autopsy would only be performed if the family requested it.
As dispatchers, Green, a 6-year veteran, and Jackson, a 4-year veteran, are fully trained EMTs. A spokesman for the EMTs' union said all dispatchers are required to be field-trained EMTs or paramedics in order to be more effective at their jobs, and are capable of getting involved in emergency situations.
"All of our members are qualified to make that initial assessment and in some cases, start medical care," said Robert Ungar, spokesman for the Uniformed EMTS and Paramedics, FDNY.
"Being dispatchers is not a defense" for inaction, he said.
A FDNY spokesman said all members take an oath to help others whenever emergency medical care is needed.
The certification program for EMTs is overseen by the state Department of Health. To complete it, people must take a 120-hour course, plus put in 10 hours of clinical time. They also have to pass an exam, and must periodically be re-certified.
Department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond said, "The charges are appalling and the Department is vigorously investigating both EMTs."
Ungar said the city's EMTs must also pass training from the Fire Department in addition to their state-regulated training.
The Fire Department has suspended Green and Jackson without pay.
Rennix said she has yet to decide whether she is going to take any legal action. She is taking care of her daughter's son.
Associated Press writer Adam Goldman and video journalist Ted Shaffrey in New York contributed to this report.