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Helmet Saves Man who Hit Ambulance

SEATTLE, Wash. -- A motorcyclist heading north on Interstate 5 near Northgate on Monday morning slammed into the back of a parked ambulance after he apparently became distracted by the commotion on the other side of the freeway as emergency workers dealt with the aftermath of three, near-simultaneous collisions that blocked southbound lanes for nearly two hours.

The 29-year-old Seattle motorcyclist "was watching the accident scene the entire time" and was illegally listening to music with ear buds in each ear, said State Trooper Cliff Pratt.

The motorcyclist "wasn't paying attention" and slammed into the back of an ambulance that had parked in the northbound car-pool lane, narrowly missing an EMT who had gone to her rig for medical supplies to treat patients involved in the earlier crashes, Pratt said.

Though medics initially didn't think he'd survive, it appears his full-face helmet which left a dent in the ambulance saved his life, Pratt said.

"He's not as bad as we first thought," Pratt said. "He's definitely messed up but it looks like he's going to make it."

Traffic was tangled for miles in both directions starting about 6:40 a.m., when seven southbound vehicles were involved in three separate collisions that caused one vehicle to roll onto its top and skid across into the car-pool lane.

That accident caused only minor injuries, Pratt said, but southbound traffic backed up more than six miles, to Lynnwood.

The motorcyclist hit the ambulance shortly after that, "coming within inches of hitting" the EMT, who suffered a bruise to her hand, Pratt said.

The ambulance had "all its lights on" and had been stopped for about 15 minutes, Pratt said. The ambulance crew was helping emergency personnel on the other side of the freeway when the motorcycle struck it.

Pratt said it's illegal for drivers to have headphones on or ear buds in both ears, though it's OK to drive with one ear bud so long as surrounding noises can be heard.

The motorcyclist will likely be cited for inattention to driving, he said.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com; Lewis Kamb: 206-464-2341 or lkamb@seattletimes.com

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