The ambulance took a dying runner from the marathon route in Chicago and evidently lost their way to a hospital, authorities said.
Chad Schieber collapsed while running the Oct. 7 race. An autopsy blamed his death on a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse, though heart experts say the condition is rarely dangerous.
The 35-year-old Schieber was picked up from the Chicago Marathon by an ambulance from Niles, one of 30 suburban crews called to help when hundreds of runners were stricken by that day's hot weather.
The crew radioed Chicago dispatchers Schieber was in full cardiac arrest and said they planned to take him to University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said this week.
The ambulance crew drove a couple blocks in the wrong direction, then flagged down a city ambulance and got instructions, said Niles Fire Chief Barry Mueller. But then they drove past the UIC Medical Center because they couldn't find the emergency room entrance.
They ended up delivering Schieber to the West Side Veterans Administration Hospital a few blocks away. The hospital is not part of Chicago's emergency response network but has a fully working emergency room, officials said.
Langford and Mueller could not say how long it took to take Schieber to the hospital or whether it would have helped Schieber if he had arrived sooner.
Mueller said the crew had asked dispatchers for directions but got no response.
"That's not unusual; the airwaves could be jammed," Mueller said.