BY CARRIE CASSIDYOf The Patriot-News
Seeing lights and sirens growing closer in her rear view mirror, an elderly woman slammed on her brakes and threw her hands in the air. Ray Barth was riding in the ambulance that had to suddenly swerve around the stopped car on a Susquehanna Twp. road many years ago.
“I guess she didn’t know what to do, but it was frustrating,” Barth said. “She not only put herself in danger. She put us in danger too. The sad thing is, we have this type of thing happen all the time.” Barth, executive director of Susquehanna Twp. EMS, vividly recalled that incident as he talked about the collision Sunday between a sport utility vehicle and a fire truck in the township Sunday afternoon. Barth and several other emergency responders agree that they have close calls almost every time an ambulance, fire truck or police cruiser takes to the streets.
In the 3 p.m. Sunday accident, police say an SUV driven by a Mechanicsburg man collided with Engine 37-1 from Rescue Fire Company at North Sixth Street and Lucknow Road. The impact flipped the 18-ton fire truck, which landed on three unoccupied cars parked on Finney Avenue.
Three firefighters — Marvin Reist Jr., assistant chief; Lt. Marvin Reist Sr.; firefighter Ronnie Little — were treated and released from Hershey Medical Center. The SUV driver, Adam Golden, 20, of the 200 block of Ridge Hill Road, remains in critical condition at the medical center.
Anita Hockenberry, a township resident who witnessed the accident, said she saw “the SUV cut in front of the fire truck” despite the lights and sirens that officials say were activated. Police are still investigating the accident and have not said who was at fault in the collision.
Several firefighters, EMTs and police chiefs interviewed for this story said a growing number of motorists are failing to yield to emergency vehicles. They place some of the blame on cell phones, better insulated cars and loud stereos. Ron Frank, commissioner of the West Shore Bureau of Fire, said the rig in which he was riding followed a driver for two blocks before she pulled over. “She was so upset about it, she called and left a message [at the firehall] saying she didn’t see the fire truck,” Frank said. “A lot of times, people just don’t hear you.”
Most times, though, motorists just don’t want to pull over, Upper Allen Twp. police Chief James Adams said. “I can tell you we don’t see people yielding like they used to,” Adams said. “I think it’s more the ‘me mentality.’ They think ‘I’m running late for work,’ or ‘I have to pick up my kids from’ fill in the blank. ‘Don’t get in my way.’ “Leave the ‘me mentality’ at home and share the roads,” Adams said.
Sgt. Gib Morrissey, a spokesman for Troop H of the state police, said motorists can make simple changes in their driving habits to help emergency vehicles. Be aware of your surroundings and keep your car stereo relatively low, Morrissey said. He also recommends checking rear view mirrors often and look around before going through intersections, even if the light is green.
“What we’re trying to do is to get some place to help somebody,” Morrissey said. “We don’t want anyone else to get hurt in the process.”
CARRIE CASSIDY: 255-8244 or [email protected]