SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — "I take full responsibility for not reaching out to them," said Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee who admits that despite saying he feels the anguish of Timesha Beauchamp's family, he has not reached out to them. "I feel tremendously upset and bad at myself for not doing that upfront, but I know they want answers and I'm trying to get those answers for them."
Menifee answered some questions Wednesday during his first press conference since Timesha, a 20-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, was mistakenly declared dead.
And during the press conference, Menifee said he wanted to correct some false information.
"We do not carry body bags," said Chief Menifee about attorney Geoffrey Fieger's claim that police and fire personnel were the ones who placed Timesha into a body bag Sunday morning after a team of paramedics and EMTs determined she was dead.
"We left her in care of the family to call the funeral home of their choosing," Menifee said.
The two firefighters/paramedics and the two firefighters/EMTs involved have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into what went wrong.
Chief Menifee would not say if his members should have taken Timesha to a hospital given that loved ones at the family's home in Southfield summoned them back into the room because they believed Timesha had a pulse and she was breathing.
First responders reportedly told the family that any movement she was making was involuntary, and the result of life-saving drugs that had been administered to try to revive her.
"They checked her vital signs on three separate occasions," said Menifee. "Each time, Ms. Beauchamp didn't show any signs of life."
Timesha's godmother, Savannah Spears, said she felt a pulse but emergency workers brushed her off and she didn't want to argue with them as they continued to say Timesha was dead.
Paramedics were leaving for a second time when the family notified a Southfield police officer that Timesha was showing signs of life.
"They went back in the house, entered the room, reassessed the patient again for the third time," Chief Menifee said. "They still didn't detect any signs of life."
Paramedics and EMTs left and Southfield police remained to call the medical examiner's office and inform them of Timesha's medical history and that there are no signs of foul play. They were then cleared to release the body to the family so they could contact a funeral home to come and pick Timesha up.
And it was at the funeral home, right before Timesha was to be embalmed, that a worker saw that her eyes were open and she was breathing.
Chief Menifee would not say if his paramedics or EMTs made a mistake. He called the situation "unique and unsettling."
All of Southfield's firefighters are also paramedics or EMTs. The team that responded to the family's home Sunday morning consisted of two paramedics and two EMTs.
We're told the firefighter/paramedic with the most experience has been on the job for 18 years, and one EMT has been on the job for six months.
Chief Menifee would not say which of the four were involved in assessing Timesha before that information was given to a physician at Ascension Providence Hospital, over the phone, in order to obtain the official declaration of death.
"I know the family is hurting," Menifee said. "These firefighters are hurting also. The department is hurting. The city is hurting. Our community is hurting with this. We want to have these answers and we plan to get these answers."