A man rescued from his submerged car knows that he is fortunate to be alive, but gratitude has not prevented the Colorado resident from filing a notice that he intends to sue those who rescued him for $500,000. His attorney calls the filing a “preventive” act.
The attorney for Roy Ortiz believes that during September’s flooding, the road on which he was driving should have been closed by county officials and if not closed, then at least investigated or marked as dangerous. Because it was not, Colorado’s Boulder county is at least partly responsible for Ortiz driving across a washed-out road and being swept into a creek, submerging his car. Ortiz’s attorney, Ed Ferszt, said that the first respondents who rescued Ortiz are also on the hook for not knowing that he was inside of his car until they began to free it from the water – a mistake which constitutes negligence which could have caused Ortiz to spend additional time trapped in his car.
Recordings of radio calls from the rescue show that first respondents believed Ortiz to be already deceased. Ferszt believes that had rescuers taken the time to look inside the car upon their arrival, they would have been able to remove Ortiz from his car much earlier. Ortiz’s brother, Pedro, who was at the scene almost immediately after Ortiz’s car went off the road, recalls that there was no urgency by emergency personnel to reach the car because they believed that “two are safe, one has died.” Divers who did investigate the car did not see Ortiz for possibly over an hour, according to Ferszt. It was only when they began hooking cables to the car in order to extricate the vehicle from the creek that they heard Ortiz banging.
In addition, Ferszt is currently planning to sue the insurance companies of two drivers who came upon the washed-out road after Ortiz because they caused his car to be pushed even further into the creek.
>Ortiz survived for two hours before being rescued because of an air pocket in the rear of his car. According to Ferszt, Ortiz suffers from difficulty sleeping, a recurring dream in which he shivers to death, and problems with his shoulder. To date, his medical bills have reached $40,000.00. Ortiz claims that he cannot afford to pay the medical bills and that collection notices have already started to arrive. The decision on whether a lawsuit will indeed be filed in Colorado courts will be based on Ortiz’s further medical needs.
When asked by a reporter why he was not simply happy to have survived, Ortiz responded, “Well, I’m happy. I’m really happy to be alive. But I’m looking for some help with my bills.” Since the notice of intent to file has become public, Ortiz has faced resounding criticism, but he insists that he is not a bad person and that he is only defending his rights. He laments the fact that he is being defamed, saying that he is a co-pastor of an Aurora, Colorado church, a 17-year employee of the same company, and has never caused trouble, nor is he trying to take advantage of anybody.
A spokesperson for the North Metro Fire Department responded to the notice to file a claim, saying “I’m sure it was a traumatic experience for (Ortiz). Ultimately, we were just very grateful we were able to save his life that day.”
The Boulder Deputy County attorney, David Hughes, states that all procedures involving Ortiz’s notice of claim are being followed and that “right now, the claim is under investigation.”
By Jennifer Pfalz