Death at Punta Uva raises concern among residents

A.M. Costa Rica/Constance W. Foss
Rex Blackwood, a friend and witness to the
tragedy, David Gudiel and Roger Gudiel, who is
known as Pacho.

Caribbean coast residents who tried to revive a surf victim or who witnessed the event are upset because they said a rescue crew was less than aggressive in trying to keep the man alive.

This is the case of Oscar Mora Muñoz, 49, who was snorkeling at Punta Uva beach Wednesday, El Día de la Madre. The Limón resident was visiting the area with his family.

Volunteer rescuers from Punta Uva Adventures said Mora must have gone into the water too soon after eating, because his air passages were filled with food and water by the time they began to try to resuscitate him.

Witnesses said that there was a delay in sending an ambulance because a dispatcher required two telephone calls to confirm the situation was serious. It was Adela Alvarez Beneyto who placed both calls.

She said she was told a Cruz Roja ambulance finally was en route from the community of BriBri.

Meanwhile at the beach, volunteer rescuers still were trying to revive Mora.

According to the husband of Ms. Alvarez, David Gudiel, when the ambulance arrived, the crew parked at the end of a road near the beach. He said he ran to the ambulance for the purpose of directing it to where the victim lay. He said he told the driver that the man was still alive and asked him to please hurry. But according to Ms. Alvarez, the ambulance driver replied that he was waiting for someone from Puerto Viejo to arrive.

When a police officer from Puerto Viejo did arrive, he and the driver remained near the ambulance for about 20 more minutes, talking, they said.

About 5 or 5:30 p.m., more rescue vehicles arrived. Eventually there were two more ambulances, three police on motorcycles, and a fire truck. But by this time the man was dead.

Mora had been helped ashore by two U.S. tourists and Aventuras Punta Uva kayakers. Gudiel’s brother, Roger, who was trying to resuscitate the man, said the victim still had a pulse. The brother is certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Eventually the ambulance crew attempted to resuscitate the man for about 10 minutes before deciding that he was dead.

Gudiel and the others who attempted to save Mora’s life said they were very disturbed by the apparent nonchalance of the authorities.

“This could have been me, or someone from my family! Just imagine.” said Gudiel, adding:

“The family was crying, telling us, ‘Don’t stop! don’t stop!’ So, of course, they were very upset when the ambulance medic refused to come out and help. We lost 40 minutes waiting for them to do something. If they had brought oxygen and administered that in time, who knows? Maybe the man would have survived.”

A resident who contacted the Cruz Roja said she was told that all ambulance drivers have at least minimal training in resuscitation and that the vehicles have live-saving gear.

The death concerned Puerto Viejo area residents because some said they feel they do not have the proper equipment or an available ambulance. Some are considering starting a cardiopulmonary resuscitation training class. The death resulted in extensive exchanges on local computer discussion lists.

Since some complaints have been directed to Cruz Roja headquarters, some residents hope that an investigation will follow.

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