November 2001

Cause of Fire at Mercy Hospital in Devils Lake Under Investigation

Investigators are not sure what caused an ambulance parked in the ambulance garage at Mercy Hospital in Devils Lake, N.D., to explode on October 2. A discharged patient who was in the ambulance died in the explosion and resulting fire, but two ambulance attendants escaped injury.

"We may never know the exact cause of the explosion," said Marlene Krein, president and chief executive officer of Mercy Hospital. "The patient was on portable oxygen, and a spark may have ignited the oxygen." The ambulance, which was owned by Lake Region Ambulance Service, was a total loss.

The patient, who was being transferred from the hospital to a local nursing home, was the mother of two Mercy Hospital staff members. A crisis management team helped employees of the hospital and of the ambulance service deal with the emotional impact of the tragedy.

"After the fire was out I spoke with each of our inpatients, and all of them were calm," said Krein. "One woman in the intensive care unit told me, ‘I heard the alarms, but I wasn’t worried. I knew you would take care of me.’ That is a real tribute to our staff."