Two separate crashes that damaged a Hampton fire truck and a North Hampton ambulance on Interstate 95 this week have prompted a warning about highway hazards and the importance of drivers obeying the state’s “Move Over” law.
A Hampton firefighter narrowly escaped a potentially deadly situation Thursday night when a car crashed into a fire truck at an accident scene on I-95 just seconds after the firefighter opened the door to climb out, heard a vehicle coming, and then quickly closed the door to avoid injury.
The incident followed another crash on I-95 in North Hampton Wednesday night involving a vehicle that struck a North Hampton Fire and Rescue ambulance as emergency personnel were responding to a crash.
“If there are vehicles on the highway that are working at an emergency scene, please give them space. It’s very dangerous out there,” Hampton Fire Chief Jameson Ayotte said.
According to authorities, the ambulance incident occurred shortly before 9 p.m. when North Hampton emergency personnel were responding to a crash in the area of the median just north of the Hampton toll plaza.
As the ambulance entered the northbound lane and proceeded across the travel lanes with its sirens on and lights flashing, authorities said it was struck by another vehicle headed northbound.
According to North Hampton fire officials, no injuries were reported, but the ambulance sustained extensive damage and is inoperable.
State Police Sgt. Joseph Ronchi said the driver was given a warning for failing to yield to an emergency vehicle and cited for having an open container of alcohol, but she was not impaired.
Thursday’s crash involving the Hampton fire truck happened at approximately 11 p.m.
Fire and rescue personnel had responded to I-95 northbound about a mile before the tolls for a single vehicle crash.
Hampton fire officials said two fire trucks with emergency lights operating were positioned behind the vehicle involved in the crash to block the scene and protect the firefighters. While an ambulance crew was assessing the driver, a car passed the rear blocking truck on the right and crashed into the driver’s side door on the other truck, officials said.
According to Ayotte, the firefighter was about to exit the fire truck when he heard the car approaching and closed the door just before it got hit.
“As a result of the accident, we’ve got a damaged fire engine but our firefighter is intact and that’s because of his quick reaction. He could hear the vehicle coming. He stayed put and shut the door. This could have been tragic,” Ayotte said.
The firefighter didn’t suffer any significant injuries, but was brought to Exeter Hospital for evaluation and released.
The driver who hit the fire truck also escaped serious injury.
Ronchi said the driver told police that he had fallen asleep.
“He wasn’t charged at the scene, but that’s not to say that he couldn’t be charged at a later time,” he said.
The fire truck sustained significant damage to the driver’s side and was towed from the scene. Ayotte said Hampton usually has spare fire engines, but because pump testing is done in May there is no spare available. The Exeter Fire Department has loaned one of its engines to Hampton in the meantime, Ayotte said.
Officials said the incident should serve as a reminder about the “Move Over” law passed in 2016 to protect emergency personnel handling highway emergencies.
“I believe there’s an important message that needs to be relayed to the public regarding the safety of emergency personnel operating in the roadways,” North Hampton Fire Chief Jason Lajoie said.
Among other things, the law requires drivers approaching an emergency incident to reduce speed and give more space, without endangering oncoming traffic, to public safety personnel, anyone in the roadway, and stationary vehicles displaying blue, red or amber emergency or warning lights.
“Our roadways, in particular 101, 95 and Route 16, are always very busy. The weather is nice so we’re certainly going to see an uptick in the population on the roadways. With that in mind, we’d just like to see all motorists make sure they’re vigilant and paying attention and looking for emergency lighting and aware enough to yield to those vehicles when they do,” Ronchi said.