NORTH LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A woman died in a hot car outside a VA hospital after being turned away at the door.
Lear Litt, 75, was accompanying her husband David, a veteran who was receiving a transfusion on Aug. 20, 2020. Visitors were not allowed inside the emergency department due to the pandemic.
“They allowed her to come in to tell me she couldn’t come in,” David Litt said. “That’s when I gave her my phone. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll call you to find out how you’re doing.’”
Around 9:30 a.m., Litt went to wait in the car in the parking lot. The temperature on record for that day: as high as 110 degrees.
Around noon, a doctor on their way in to the hospital saw Litt in the car — which was not running with the windows rolled down, according to records from the Clark County Coroner’s office. Litt told the doctor that she did not have much gas so she could not let the car run.
To David Litt, this does not add up. He told the I-Team that he had made it a habit to never get below a half-tank of gas.
David told the I-Team that he tried calling his wife around 2:30 p.m. and there was no answer. He said he asked hospital staff to check on her. Shortly after, he heard an announcement. “Rapid response in the parking lot,” he recalled.
Litt was found unresponsive in the car with a body temperature of 109 degrees.
“Someone’s doing compressions and I’m across the hall from where this is taking place, but I knew it was her,” Litt said. “Without even seeing it, I knew it was her.”
Litt was pronounced dead inside the hospital.
William Caron, the head of VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, agreed to sit down with the I-Team for an on-camera interview.
“The unfortunate reality was we spent so much time on risk assessing, protect veterans, protect staff and after that incident occurred, we had to take a step back and say, well, there is a secondary risk too because of the weather out here,” Caron said.
Multiple departments at the VA investigated the incident. The I-Team requested records to learn more about the investigations and their findings on Feb. 1, 2022. The request was denied. The I-Team has appealed.
“Any of those results of the investigation, typically, that’s not something that we would share outright,” Caron said.
Litt said he was never notified about any investigations until the I-Team informed him.
Caron said policy was changed immediately after Litt’s death to allow one visitor to accompany a patient, and to increase patrols in the parking lot.
Litt told the I-Team that the VA never informed him of the policy change that resulted from his wife’s death. “It’ll help someone else if the same situation arises, but it’s not helping me at all,” he said.
David and Lear Litt, who were high school sweethearts, had been married for 57 years. Litt said he is trying to adjust to life without his wife. “I know it’s gonna take time,” he said.