EMT Michael J. Latta was just 21. Seemingly healthy, he apparently suffered a fatal heart attack while driving an ambulance in Dunstable on Thursday that crashed into a home, killing Latta and his patient. Michael J. Latta was a lifeguard, an instructor in tae kwon do, and an emergency medical technician, and he was just 21.
Seemingly healthy, he apparently suffered a fatal heart attack while driving an ambulance in Dunstable on Thursday that crashed into a home, killing Latta and his patient, Latta’s sister said yesterday. “You worry about anyone who is in this type of field,” Nicole Latta said in a telephone interview from her family’s North Andover home. “Are they going to go on some call and something is going to happen? But you just have to let them do it because it’s something they want to do and because they are helping people. You can’t stop someone from doing that.”
Dunstable police identified the patient being transported as David V. Snell, 57. Snell’s relatives declined comment yesterday. Dunstable Police Chief James G. Downes III said that the investigation was ongoing, but that the focus was on Latta’s medical condition. He said more insight may come from the state medical examiner’s office, which was conducting autopsies of both men.
Police said Latta, at the wheel of a Patriot Ambulance, arrived at Snell’s Pleasant Street home around 3 p.m. Thursday. A second Patriot employee was also on hand. After placing Snell in the ambulance, Latta headed for Lawrence General Hospital, but the trouble began immediately, police said. The ambulance slid off the highway and across a lawn, police said. It smashed head-on into a neighbor’s garage. Ambulances were dispatched to the scene, and Latta and Snell were both taken to the hospital, where they were pronounced dead. The other employee riding in the ambulance suffered minor injuries .
Officials at Patriot Ambulance, a privately held company, said Latta has been working for them since August. “In this time of tragedy, the grief is felt throughout the company and is beyond any words that [can] be spoken,” the company said yesterday in a statement. “Our heartfelt condolences to Michael’s family, co-workers, and friends. We ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they endure their inconceivable loss.”
Nicole Latta struggled with her grief as she talked about her younger brother, one of her three siblings. She said he was a graduate of North Andover High School and completed his EMT training at Essex Community College. She said her brother was drawn to an occupation that helps the public and singled out working as an EMT — he had hoped to train in the near future to become a paramedic — one day when an ambulance sped past. “That’s all it took,” she recalled.
Since joining Patriot, his sister said, he took on as much work as the company offered to him. “He worked 90 hours a week and it wouldn’t faze him — if they needed him,” she said. “I’ve never seen anyone so in love with what they do.”
Nicole Latta said her brother was the person their family and his many friends turned to when they needed help or just someone to listen to. “He was my best friend,” she added.
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