Two tragedies strike snowbound Corona

Snow remains on Layton Avenue in Elmhurst more than one week after the blizzard. The then snow-filled roads made it so EMS workers could not deliver Addison Reynoso (inset) to Elmhurst Hospital before being brain damaged Dec. 29. Photo by Christina Santucci/Inset courtesy the New York Post.
By Rebecca Henely

Like all neighborhoods in Queens, Corona and Elmhurst were hit hard by the snowstorm, but during the last week the high piles of snow and icy roads led to situations that were not just an inconvenience but deadly.

In the days following the storm,  a 75-year-old woman died in the neighborhood when the ambulances took an hour and 45 minutes to arrive and a three-month old boy suffered brain damage after paramedics were unable to get him to the hospital before 20 minutes.

“I don’t know what fell apart,” said Laura Freeman, the woman’s daughter. “It was systemwide, from 911 all the way to the Sanitation (Department.)”

The first incident occurred on Dec. 27, when Yvonne Freeman of 104th and 39th Avenue became ill. Frank Dwyer, a spokesman for the Fire Department, said a call came into 911 about a woman who was possibly dead. Ambulances from the New York Hospital of Queens were dispatched and arrived at 10:57 a.m., an hour and 45 minutes after the call went in, Dwyer said. Freeman was dead at the scene when they arrived, Dwyer said.

“That was the height of the storm, when 911 had over a thousand phone calls,” he said.

Laura Freeman said her mother became sick with respiratory distress around 8:20 a.m. She and many of her neighbors called 911 for hours before one call finally went through on the overloaded lines.

Two days later and a few blocks away, a 911 call came in at 1:12 p.m. to help 3-month-old Addison Reinoso of 39th Avenue near 108th Street, who went into cardiac or respiratory arrest, Dwyer said. While EMS from Flushing Hospital arrived at 1:25 p.m., the ambulance got stuck at the intersection of Layton Street and Baxter Avenue near Elmhurst Hospital Center.

“[The EMS] had to run at least half a block or a block with the child into the emergency room,” Dwyer said.

In the intervening time Reinoso had become brain-dead.

The New York Post reported Reinoso had human respiratory syncytial virus. His parents had been planning to take him off life support, the paper said.

Dwyer said at the time the boy became ill more roads had been cleared in the aftermath of the storm, but the ambulance workers still had to deal with icy roads and cars being dug out of the snow.

“Any weather impacts our operations,” he said.

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said he was eager for these incidents to be investigated on an oversight meeting at the City Council Monday on the city’s response to the blizzard.

“Swift and forceful action must be taken against those who failed our city in a time of need,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Note: This article has been changed since publication to correct the last name of the baby who died.

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