Las Vegas Sun

April 25, 2019

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Mesquite official outraged by Hammargren

Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren's confidence that he could have saved Butch Laswell's life in the crucial moments after the motorcyclist's fatal crash has shocked the city manager of Mesquite.

"Dr. Hammargren never asserted that he was Laswell's personal physician, nor did he attempt to take over the scene or take responsibility for the man's treatment," City Manager Bill DaVee said. "He (Hammargren) was more in the way than anything else."

Video footage of Sunday afternoon's accident shows the prominent neurosurgeon as one of the first to reach Laswell after the motorcyclist missed the landing ramp after a record-breaking attempt to jump a pedestrian bridge at a Mesquite hotel-casino.

Two rescue crew members restrained Hammargren as paramedics lifted a semiconscious Laswell onto a gurney for transport, authorities said.

The doctor, the back of whose red jacket that day read "Lon Hammargren Surgeon," was heard yelling for a knife.

Later, Hammargren maintained that a tracheotomy -- a cut in the trachea to create a breathing hole -- was necessary but not performed by paramedics and that his medical expertise would have kept the professional stuntman alive.

"I'm absolutely sure of it," Hammargren said Wednesday on his way into Davis Paradise Valley Funeral Home for Laswell's funeral. "Well, 99.9 percent sure. My wife agrees with 99 percent."

When asked why he didn't take control of Laswell's care at the scene, Hammargren said his wife and nurses had asked the same question.

"I told them, 'Does it look good to fight with paramedics?'"

Hammargren stated in a news release that he has attended Laswell's jumps and followed his career. He said it was the motorcyclist's manager, Douglas MacValley, who requested his presence at Sunday's jump.

Yet DaVee said that Laswell specifically asked longtime friend and Mesquite paramedic Randall Jones to be on the ready should an emergency arise. Jones, DaVee said, was among the first to leap to Laswell's aid.

An autopsy has determined that a crushed larynx caused Laswell to asphyxiate. He was pronounced dead about an hour after the crash.

Paramedics had inserted a breathing tube into Laswell's throat to maintain an airway in their four-minute rush from the accident site to meet a Flight for Life helicopter along Interstate 15's Hidden Valley exit, DaVee said.

"Dr. Hammargren did not have the equipment to do it (a tracheotomy), and (the paramedics) didn't either," DaVee said. "That equipment was on board the helicopter," which Hammargren rode in to University Medical Center.

"All Hammargren had with him from what we could see was a camera," DaVee said.

"What's interesting about the incident is that Hammargren inquired about the procedure and about who was going to perform it before the jump even happened. Maybe he's clairvoyant."

Laswell's vital signs were good, according to paramedics' records.

"His blood pressure was 140 over 98, his respiration was 28 breaths per minute and he was breathing on his own when we turned him over to the helicopter crew," Davee said. "He was in good condition, considering the trauma he'd been through after falling 60 feet and traveling 70 mph."

Flight for Life personnel were unavailable to comment Wednesday regarding the treatment administered prior to Laswell's death.

"Our paramedics should be commended for what they did, not kicked around," DaVee said. "They are sincere, conscientious, and everyone of them is dedicated to saving lives."

Laswell's family has declined to comment on the medical treatment.

"We're not pointing fingers at anyone," said Gary Laswell, Butch's cousin and family spokesman. "We're not blaming anybody."

The city's only contact with the Laswell family was a special invitation for the rescue team to attend the funeral. Many of those people, DaVee said, were in attendance Wednesday.

Si Redd's Oasis hotel-casino obtained a special event permit through the city of Mesquite to host Sunday's promotional event. The hotel-casino recently completed a remodeling and added a few hundred additional rooms to its property, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

The site of the jump, at the corner of Mesquite Boulevard and Pulsipher Lane, is within the city of Mesquite and a state highway, yet DaVee does not believe the city or state are liable for the fatality.