Saturday, September 18, 2010
By Cindy Leise - The Chronicle-Telegram
GRAFTON TWP. — An ambulance driver for the township told fire officials he was “barely rolling” at the time of the crash that killed 82-yearold Zygmunt J. Pacyna of Hinckley Township on Wednesday, according to Assistant Fire Chief Timothy Adams.
Richard Robinson told fellow fire personnel that he had “almost come to a complete stop” at the stop sign on southbound Island Road and state Route 303 when the ambulance collided with Pacyna’s Chevrolet Cavalier traveling eastbound on Route 303.
“He said the car almost speeded up,” Adams said. “It’s a very tragic accident.”
Robinson, 26, of Cleveland, was treated at EMH Regional Medical Center in Elyria and was back at work Thursday, Adams said.
A critical incident stress counselor visited the Fire Department on Thursday to assist those involved, including Robinson, who Adams called “one of my best drivers.”
“Right now he doesn’t want to go on a run,” Adams said. “Nothing can really help him; it’s going to take a long time,” Trooper Scott Powers said he has interviewed Robinson, and it is too early in the investigation to say who was at fault. The ambulance’s lights and sirens were activated at the There was no stop sign for Pacyna traveling on Route 303 but there was a stop sign on southbound Island Road for the ambulance, according to Powers.
“According to the law, an emergency vehicle must proceed cautiously through an intersection,” Powers said. “If there’s someone coming, you must stop until that person stops.”
Powers said the best witness to the crash was Bruce Bishop, a photographer for The Chronicle-Telegram who had been photographing the ambulance response to the home of former Grafton Township trustee Robert Kowalski, who had fallen off a roof.
Bishop estimated the ambulance was traveling between 10 and 15 mph and the car was going about 55 mph.
“I saw that car coming straight as an arrow, and it was completely clear what was going to happen,” Bishop said. “It was terrible, terrible.”
After the crash, Bishop, a former emergency medical technician and dispatcher for LifeCare ambulance service, checked on Pacyna, who had no pulse, and offered assistance to others injured in the crash who later were treated and released from area hospitals.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials said emergency response by ambulances, fire trucks and police and sheriff’s vehicles requires a lot of training and retraining.
Lorain County Sheriff’s deputies are getting a refresher course in driving with lights and sirens activated, according to Capt. James Drozdowski.
“We teach the guys to slow down at any and all intersections whether there’s vehicles present or not,” Drozdowski said. The sheriff’s department stresses that lights and sirens be used judiciously, he said. “People block out hearing the siren because they’re used to them,” he said. Cars also are more soundproof than they used to be and people multitask with cell phones, he said.
In Medina County, lights and sirens are used only for priority one calls such as murders, accidents with injuries, domestic incidents involving active assaults and serious crimes, said Kenneth Baca, chief deputy of the Sheriff’s Department.
Emergency response with lights and sirens is like Murphy’s Law, Baca said, adding “If anything goes wrong, it will go wrong in these situations.”
Medina police Lt. Robert Starcher said an officer was cited 15 to 20 years ago for failing to take appropriate precautionary measures at a red light when an accident occurred.
Ohio law requires that all vehicles give the right of way to a public safety vehicle with its lights flashing and/or siren on. The law does not exempt drivers of said vehicles from “the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons and property.”
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