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Fla. Ambulance Overturns Responding to Call

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Christmas Eve became frightening and painful for two Manatee emergency workers whose ambulance overturned responding to an emergency call.

A Manatee County paramedic and EMT had to be hospitalized with injuries after the crash Monday where U.S. 41 and U.S. Business 41 merge south of U.S. 19. Their names were not released.

At 2:47 p.m., the two-person crew, a male paramedic and female EMT, had the ambulance's lights and sirens on, driving to a respiratory emergency call in Palmetto Point, according to Manatee Public Safety Capt. Larry Leinhauser. As the ambulance drove north on U.S. 41, traffic yielded to the blaring sirens. But a red pickup stopped in the road with the ambulance coming from behind. Leinhauser said the driver of the truck suddenly veered left into the path of the ambulance.

The ambulance then took evasive action to avoid a collision, hit some sand and overturned onto the grassy median.

Another ambulance arrived at the scene to provide care for the injured paramedic and EMT, while a third ambulance, of the county's fleet of 17, was dispatched to the respiratory call in Palmetto Point.

Both the paramedic and EMT suffered neck and back injuries, and were taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital. Early investigation shows the ambulance driver may have avoided a serious or fatal collision with the pickup, according to Leinhauser.

"It looks like our driver did everything right. He avoided an accident that probably would have killed the truck driver," he said. "Unfortunately, he had to pay for it."

Florida Highway Patrol troopers investigating the crash had not released the pickup driver's name at press time, or whether he would be cited in the accident. Leinhauser said county risk management officials are also investigating.

The accident slowed traffic on U.S. 41 for a short time and left one bystander worried for a colleague's well being.

"It is all part of the job, realistically," said Audie Stern, an off-duty Manatee paramedic whose family witnessed the accident from their truck. "I hope this brings awareness that people need to yield right when an emergency vehicle is coming."

In fact, drivers by law must yield right, if possible, to emergency personnel and law enforcement, Leinhauser said.

Both the paramedic and EMT were expected to be released from the hospital Monday night, to the relief of Manatee emergency officials, Leinhauser said.

He said they survived a very rare and dangerous crash.

"In my 25 years, I have not seen an ambulance overturn like this. It is a really big box, so it takes a lot to turn it over," he said.

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