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Switching Radio Channels Causes Massachusetts Ambulance Crash

One of the town's three ambulances was heavily damaged and a paramedic  is recovering from injuries after an accident early Sunday morning on Dudley-Oxford Road in Dudley.

Oxford police said the town's ambulance was responding to a call in Dudley and had picked up a patient when it went off the road, struck a tree and landed in a ditch just before 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

A paramedic who was treating the patient in the back of the ambulance suffered a cut to his head that required more than a dozen stitches to close. Oxford Fire Chief Sherry Bemis said the paramedic will be out of work for an indefinite period. She believes the ambulance, a 2000 Freightliner, is a total loss, but she is awaiting word from the town's insurance company.

While police in Dudley continue to investigate, Chief Bemis said the accident happened when the EMT driving the ambulance leaned over to switch the communications radio from the Dudley frequency back to the Oxford frequency so he could communicate with the dispatcher.

She explained that when the ambulance travels to other towns, the radio must be changed so emergency personnel can talk with the dispatchers in those communities. She said fire officials have tried to come up with a better way to deal with the radio issue, but "there's no solution to the problem with the technology we have."

That is just one known ambulance-related problem that was a factor in the crash, she said. The other is that EMS personnel in the back of the ambulance with patients are not secured. While there are systems in place to restrain personnel in the back, ambulances equipped with those devices are far more expensive and most often out of reach for towns like Oxford.

The EMT who was driving suffered minor injuries, and the patient, aside from the medical problems that prompted the initial ambulance call, was not injured.

Dudley Fire Capt. David J. Konieczny said Dudley EMTs responded to the crash and transported the patient who had been in the back of Oxford's ambulance. Oxford had responded to Dudley under the mutual aid agreement, he said.

Dudley Police Chief Steven J. Wojnar said the State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section is assisting the investigation.

"We're looking into what happened," Chief Wojnar said. "Right now, it doesn't appear there was any negligence or reckless operation."

No charges have been filed, he said.

Chief Bemis said the lack of a third ambulance will affect her department. She said it is becoming more common to have three ambulance calls at a time and she will have to use mutual aid more often until the ambulance is replaced.



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