We extend our condolences to the families of two Indianapolis medics who died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in the early morning of February 16, 2013. These were reportedly the first fatalities in an on-the-job vehicle collision in the history of Indianapolis EMS.
The accident happened at approximately 3:37 a.m., according to local news station WTHR, at the intersection of Senate Avenue and St. Clair. The ambulance, heading south on Senate, had the right of way, as the traffic light at the intersection was flashing yellow for vehicles on Senate. The lights on St. Clair were flashing red. The ambulance was not responding to a call at the time, so its lights and sirens were not activated. A black Honda headed west on St. Clair allegedly did not stop at the flashing red light and struck the ambulance as it was crossing the intersection. The ambulance’s driver and the other medic were taken to a nearby hospital. The driver, a 24 year-old private, died at the hospital shortly after the collision. The passenger, a 22 year-old paramedic, spent about twenty-four hours on life support and died early Sunday morning.
The Honda’s 21 year-old driver was taken to the hospital for blood testing after the accident and was listed in good condition. An officer claimed to smell alcohol on her breath, and she reportedly admitted to having one-and-a-half drinks before the accident. Police stated on the afternoon of February 17 that preliminary blood alcohol tests on the driver, based on samples drawn about two hours after the collision, were “borderline.” The driver was released while police continued their investigation and awaited results of further blood alcohol testing.
Medics, like most first responders, face serious risks while driving or riding in emergency vehicles. Many people may picture a typical ambulance accident involving high rates of speed with sirens, and perhaps another driver unwilling to yield the right-of-way. An article entitled “Dispelling Myths on Ambulance Accidents,” written by Robert Elling, appeared in the July 1989 issue of the Journal of Emergency Medical Services. Most ambulance accidents, the article found, occur during daylight hours, on dry roads and clear days with good visibility. It also found that most collisions occurred in intersections, either when a vehicle is turning or when one vehicle broadsides another, as opposed to when an ambulance tries to pass a non-yielding vehicle. Sixty percent of ambulance accidents involving another vehicle occurred at intersections with traffic signals.
The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) provided more recent data in a September 2011 report that reviewed ambulance accident statistics nationwide for the period from 1990 to 2009. It found that 469 fatal multi-vehicle ambulance crashes and 121 fatal single-vehicle crashes occurred during that time period. The ambulance was in emergency use during 273 of the multi-vehicle accidents and fifty-one of the single-vehicle crashes. For the year 2009, the FPRF identified 3,029 ambulance crashes, twenty-nine of which had fatalities. The ambulances were using their lights and sirens in 1,404 of the total crashes, and in sixteen of the fatal ones.
At Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson, we help the victims of Indiana automobile accidents and their families obtain compensation for their damages. Contact us today online or at (888) 532-7766 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our lawyers.
Analysis of Ambulance Crash Data, Final Report (PDF file), Fire Protection Research Foundation, National Fire Protection Association, September 2011
Robert Elling, NREMT-P, Dispelling Myths on Ambulance Accidents, Journal of Emergency Medical Services, July 1989, reprinted by the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch
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Photo credit: Alvimann from morguefile.com.