A 50-year-old man died of a heart attack at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Monday because emergency responders were stuck behind secure doors and unable to open them with their ID cards.
Gunseye Adekunle, a New Jersey resident, died of cardiac arrest shortly after two separate teams of paramedics struggled with the locked airport doors, the New York Post writes in an exclusive report. Their ID cards failed at the Delta terminal, even though the $1.4 billion terminal had been newly renovated.
A police operator received the 911 call around 6:30 a.m., and was told that the victim was breathing, but unresponsive. A Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) ambulance was quickly dispatched, but unable to enter the terminal doors from the street. The fire department (FDNY) also responded to the scene, but was likewise denied entry when the security system failed to recognize the ID card of the police officer who was escorting them.
FDNY responders were denied entry at 7:10 a.m., about 40 minutes after the 911 call had been made. At that point, each passing minute without medical care put the heart attack victim at greater risk of death.
“Seconds are critical when responding to a cardiac event,” an anonymous source familiar with the incident told the Post. “And unfortunately, unnecessary obstacles take away those critical seconds and possibly a patient’s fighting chance.”
Emergency medical responders from the Port Authority dispatch were eventually able to enter the building through another route, but they were delayed by two minutes. The PAPD EMTs lacked the required medical equipment and training to help the victim, but the FDNY team was still stuck outside.
Responders then decided to bring the patient down to the ambulance. They placed Adekunle into the vehicle and transported him to Jamaica Hospital. But the 50-year-old man died in the ambulance. It is unclear if he received medical treatment in the vehicle.
A Port Authority dispatcher later told the Post that there was a “delay in patient contact due to elevator/SIDA card denied access in T-4,” thereby suggesting that the delay contributed to the man’s death.
The newly expanded and renovated Delta Terminal was completed in May at the cost of $1.4 billion. It features 16 lanes and boasts having a consolidated security checkpoint and more efficient screening procedures. The JFK Airport website describes the new terminal as “modern, efficient, spacious and unique,” and calls it a “successful paradigm for air terminal management.”
But the error in the security system that denied EMTs crucial access to the terminal was a fatal flaw that may have cost one man his life. A Delta spokeswoman denied any fault and told the Post that the company was not responsible for the error.