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Va. Firefighter-Paramedic Killed in Vehicle Accident

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Henrico County (Va.) firefighter-paramedic died early Sunday after he became pinned between a tree and a vehicle at his home in what authorities described as an accident.

Joseph J. Ritzenthaler, 30, of New Kent County also was a paramedic in the Army Reserve who served in Iraq in 2003.

"He was engaged to be married in August," Henrico fire Capt. Douglas Reynolds said last night.

Rescue workers responding to a 5:45 a.m. call in the 8900 block of Piney Branch Lane in Providence Forge found Ritzenthaler trapped. They pulled him out, provided medical care and took him to VCU Medical Center, where he later was pronounced dead, according to the New Kent Sheriff's Office.

Ritzenthaler may have been trying to start the vehicle to go to work, authorities said. The vehicle lurched forward, trapping him against the tree.

The firefighter and paramedic would have completed his sixth year with Henrico Division of Fire this summer. He also worked part-time at the VCU Medical Center emergency room, Reynolds said.

Ritzenthaler enlisted in the Army Reserve at age 19 and was still active, Reynolds said. He was a paramedic sergeant with the military police.

Before coming to Henrico, he worked for Richmond Ambulance Authority and was a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Williamsburg, Reynolds said.

"He was a well-liked person within the division [Henrico]," the fire captain said. "He's certainly going to be missed by the people who worked with him."

Contact Juan Antonio Lizama at (804) 649-6513 or jlizama@timesdispatch.com

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