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Flushing bakery worker dies in storm after mix-up

An employee of a Flushing bakery died during this week’s blizzard, authorities said.

Jin Zhu Li was working at the Q Q Cafe & Bakery at 42-57 Main St. Dec. 28 when he apparently started to feel under the weather, according to a source familiar with the incident. That stretch of downtown Flushing’s central thoroughfare had already been plowed by the time the man died.

A dispatcher received a 911 call at about 1:15 p.m. requesting an ambulance for a man who had fallen and injured himself at the shop, according to FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer, who could not confirm the man’s name.

The call went into the dispatch system as an injury-causing fall, meaning that it was not as high a priority as some other issues such as a heart attack or someone who is knocked unconscious during a fall, Dwyer said.

“If you’re calling and saying, ‘I fell down and hurt myself,’ you’re not getting put in the front of the line, you’re going to go in the system and we’ll try to stay in touch with you and we’ll get there as soon as we can. Without a storm, we’ll probably get there as soon as possible,” Dwyer said. “During the storm, this was magnified even more so because we had so many units stuck in the snow and we had such high backlog.”

The man, who the source identified as Li, died about 10 minutes later, but EMS was not contacted again until about 2:45 p.m., shortly after police officers arrived at the bakery and found the man dead, according to the source.

After the second call went in, during which the incident was clarified as a dead on arrival, the incident was upgraded to a cardiac arrest, the highest possible priority call in the EMS system, said Dwyer, who estimated that the man was in his 50s. An ambulance arrived on the scene promptly.

“We got there about 10 minutes later on the call of a cardiac arrest and the person is dead on the scene,” Dwyer said.

The source said Li’s death was likely the result of “a lot of miscommunication” on behalf of the person who made the initial 911 call.

A bakery employee who answered the phone there last Thursday afternoon was hesitant to speak about the issue, saying requests for details should be forwarded to her boss, who was not there at the time.

“We feel very sad about it, but the boss is not here so I cannot talk more to you about it,” the employee said.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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