No bus ever came to rescue Ethel Mayo Freeman, the 91-year-old New Orleans woman who died outside the Convention Center in her wheelchair almost a year ago, after waiting among the tens of thousands stranded in the flooded city.
Instead of medical care during Hurricane Katrina, Freeman received a lethal dose of abandonment by a host of negligent state and city officials, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by only her son in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.
Herbert Freeman Jr., who cared for his ailing mother in their Central City home until the flooding of Aug. 29 forced him to take her by boat to higher ground, has sued the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans, along with more than one dozen departments and officials, for the wrongful death of his mother.
At issue in the lawsuit is whether Louisiana’s Emergency Operations Plan for dealing with the consequences of disasters, crafted in April 2005, was ignored as the city was plunged into agony in late August, and whether that constitutes misconduct under the law. The plan’s mission statement includes a provision that the state’s response to a disaster includes transportation, shelter and care for evacuees.
Freeman’s attorney’s said they will file a second lawsuit, one against FEMA, next week at U.S. District Court.
Despite the lack of help available at the Convention Center in the immediate aftermath of the Aug. 29 flooding, officials continued to direct storm survivors to gather there. Finally, when buses arrived the Friday after Katrina struck, evacuees were ordered to get on.
Herbert Freeman followed the order, placing a note on his mother’s corpse, which remained at the Convention Center as he finally left the shattered city.
Freeman has said that his mother was conscious and talking, in spite of her ailments, which include a pacemaker and a feeding tube in her chest. She kept asking him for a doctor or nurse, he said, but none could be found. She did not withstand the relentless heat and lack of proper food, water and medical attention, and died some 30 hours after arriving at the Convention Center.