Trouble With Breathing Tube Contributed To Cyclist’s Death, Report States

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

EUREKA SPRINGS (KFSM) – The cyclist killed Saturday (July 19) while preparing for a Eureka Springs bike race died of esophageal intubation with complicating neck and face trauma, according to a state medical examiner’s report.

Laura Wooldridge, 39, crashed her mountain bike while cycling the trails at the Fat Tire Festival, officials said. Emergency crews were called to the scene, and Wooldridge later died, authorities said.

Wooldridge’s thyroid and larynx were crushed, requiring responding medical crews to place a breathing tube in her neck instead of through the mouth, officials said.

Because medical personnel placed the tube above the crushed thyroid, the tube went down the esophogus, officials said.

The preliminary report was filed Monday (July 21) by Dr. Stephen Erickson.

Wooldridge, of Little Rock, emerged from the woods after her wreck near Lake Leatherwood covered in blood, said bystander Jared Joseph. Joseph said he saw her walk out of a trail carrying her bicycle after the crash.

She was walking and talking without much difficulty, and she was bleeding profusely from her lip and chin area, Joseph said.




  • Mr. Jay

    So, would this be a matter of medical malpractice? Surely the EMT’s could see that her stomach and not her lungs was filling with air when they were trying to establish an airway.

    • marti suchsland

      You need to get your facts straight. Eureka Springs EMS DID NOT attempt to intubate her. The AirEvan personnel did. Giving consideration to her severe facial and neck injuries, it was a difficult procedure anyway you look at it.

  • Leten Uno

    Mr Jay, You weren’t there. You observation leaves out the other facts of the case. It’s a surface observation about a single procedure. In the woods, Proximity to the MedFlight, Blood gushing, crushed thyroid, The patient must have been in distress or failure to make the decision to Intubate. Is it fair to say they were working with a situation felt life threatening.
    if they If they did in fact noticed the stomach. What then, try again, then pull the ET and vent ? And would the next step would be a emergency trach? Would they have known the thyroid was crushed, known for sure? Is it possible the crushed thyroid was blocking the path to the lungs or if she was trached by the time they cleared the thryoid it may have been too late. They could have followed proper protocol and the patient still expired.
    Within minutes the lungs muscles could exhaust and fail. In emergencies not everyone lives. EMT’s, nor Doctors save 100%. In some injuries the mortality rate is less than 50%. Without the EMT’s would this type injury been fatal. Combined with respiratory distress or failure as well.
    Did the patient had a mortal injury before the EMT’s touched her.
    We do send prayers and heart felt concern for the family and friends of the deceased. And the responders who on many days do save lives that would be lost without them.

    • marti suchsland

      Thank you Mr. Uno, you hit the nail on the head. By the way, I mispelled “AirEvac”.

    • Katie

      Leten Uno, were you there? Just curious because in your comment you seem to imply that having been there might give one greater authority on making a comment. Regardless, any medically trained individual knows that when visualization of the glottis is difficult, the endotracheal tube may inadvertently be
      introduced into the esophagus. Also, while esophageal intubation is more common with
      inexperienced practitioners it may also occur in experienced hands. Intubating the
      esophagus is not disastrous, but failure to detect and correct the condition is. I am certain that the emergency respondents did nothing malicious, however a mistake was made (although I was not there so I cannot say this for certain, I am just going on information provided by the medical examiner). Just as any medical facility and/or care givers would expect and receive compensation for their services I believe the family of Laura Wooldridge should expect and receive compensation for their loss, if in fact her death was brought about by improper intubation or any other emergency medical respondent error. I am in no way saying the respondent(s) should be punished–but it is my opinion that the family does deserve financial compensation for their loss.

  • Call1

    The victim had apparent server injuries and had to of went into a severe state of unusable vitals before emergency services would have put in a breathing tube.

    According to the past articles the victim was walking and carrying her bike, so this would likely mean no real injuries other than the start of a internal brain bleed. My guess would be that the internal head bleed caused the rapid decline in the vitals that lead to the need for the breathing tube. I don’t think the tube would have saved her or reversed the internal head bleed.
    This is sad for all involved and I’m praying for the family and the emergency workers who must feel bad, but I’m sure they did their best, even if it would have made no difference.

    • marti suchsland

      There was no indication of a head bleed. Read the report. If you have never worked in EMS, you really don’t know what you’re talking about. And yes, EMS and firefighters do what they do, not for a big paycheck, but because they have a heart to serve. Most of us get no paycheck at all.

      • Call1

        Yes I am not sure, yes my Dad died in 1994 in an ambulance rollover on 16 E near Baldwin. I know of the low pay. He was a EMT in the ambulance helping a 18 wheeler driver that had rolled over at the Washington/Madison co line. My family sacrificed dearly to help out others.

        Praying for all involved.

  • Katie

    She walked out of the woods carrying her bike, quite some distance as I was very near where the crash occurred the following day–it was a bit of a hike. As for the error under discussion, Salt Lake City doctor Tim Wolfe found that something as simple as a $6 suction device could determine whether the intubation tube is in the right place. Once squeezed, if the bulb does not refill with air, the intubation is not working. Dr. Wolfe designed and markets one of these devices today. Another, more common one measures carbon dioxide. If the lungs are producing carbon dioxide, the intubation is good. Amazingly, Dr. Wolfe says, the majority of emergency care across the country don’t use them. Why? Some doctors and paramedics say they cost too much. Others say they’re not necessary, that good medical judgment is enough. However, the problem with being wrong is it might kill somebody. Air Evac clearly screwed up and somebody, Laura Wooldridge, died. :-(

  • Katie

    I am not saying they did this maliciously–I am certain they feel horrible any time they lose a patient–that doesn’t change that fact that they did screw up this time and Laura died. Would she have died without the tracheotomy? I can’t say, but I suspect that science will so a pretty good job of determining this. She walked out of the woods carrying her bike and speaking coherently! I appreciate what EMTs and paramedics do, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t screw up now and then.

  • Lisa John

    Paramedics don’t perform emergency crichothyrotomies on a whim. The article states her thyrioid and her larynx were crushed and there was bleeding. Swelling in the throat was surely a problem. You need to visualize the vocal cords for the best chance at properly placing an endotracheal tube. Since the med crew placed a crich tube I suspect the patient’s throat was swelling and visualization was poor if not impossible. Yes, there are inexpensive devices that detect carbon dioxide and are used to determine correct ETT placement. Please don’t think for one minute that the med crew was without that device or were untrained in all methods of determining proper tube placement. If this lady needed an emergency crich the situation was dire to begin with. Most likely they had only one opportunity to place the tube before running out of time to save this lady’s life. As far as “poor training” goes, air medical crews are trained regularly for this procedure but practicing on a fake throat is not nearly the same as actually performing the procedure on a live patient in a life or death crisis and fortunately or unfortunately the opportunity to do the procedure in the real world does not come up very often during an individual responder’s career. This was a heart breaking tragedy, my condolences to the friends and loved ones of this lady.

  • Sam Walker

    I’m really sadden by this news. She obviously have breathing problems and was using cycling as a way to cope with it. It ‘s just so unfortunate that her breathing tube and cycling which were things that were supposed to help her with her condition, were the ones that caused her death. We don’t have all the information so it’s really hard to conclude or put the blame on anyone but it is also hard not to think that this could’ve been prevented. What we can all do right now is say our prayers for the victim and her family.

Comments are closed.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.