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Patient transfer suspended after fire chief’s OWI

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The Grand Junction fire department temporarily suspended its transportation of medical patients in its ambulance after its fire chief was arrested last week for driving drunk during one of those transports overnight.

Thomas Launderville, 39, of Grand Junction, is charged with operating while intoxicated — his second such offense in about five years.

Launderville responded to a late-night medical call Friday in Grand Junction and transported the patient to Greene County Medical Center in Jefferson, which is about 9 miles away, according to court records.

“I overheard a Grand Junction volunteer firefighter, later identified as Thomas Launderville, advise over the radio the Grand Junction ambulance was en route to the Greene County Medical Center,” a Jefferson police officer wrote in a criminal complaint. “I noticed Thomas slurred his speech heavily over the radio, and I decided to travel to the Greene County hospital to ensure the driver of the ambulance was not intoxicated.”

Launderville steered the ambulance into the hospital parking lot about 12:05 a.m. Saturday. He allegedly admitted to the officer that he drank three or four beers before driving that night. A breath test showed his blood-alcohol concentration was .210 percent, which is more than double the limit to drive.

The fire department, which is composed of volunteers, removed Launderville as chief, and “the service medical director has made the decision that the service will not be transporting patients, temporarily,” Polly Carver-Kimm, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Public Health, said Tuesday.

Greene County Ambulance, based in Jefferson, was transporting those patients instead, she said.

Launderville’s previous drunken-driving arrest was in June 2014, when he was stopped about 5 a.m. for driving his pickup truck erratically on Iowa Highway 144 near Grand Junction. He was sentenced to two days in jail.

Launderville could not be reached to comment for this article.

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