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Patient to Receive $75,000 After Ambulance Crash

Polk County, Fla., commissioners approved a $75,000 settlement with a woman who was a patient in an ambulance that crashed in 2004, killing an onboard firefighter and injuring a paramedic.

Bernadette Gregory sued Polk County in June 2006 for negligence. Interim Polk County Attorney Linda McKinley told the commission Tuesday that Gregory has back problems and will likely have future medical concerns.

Commissioners unanimously approved the $75,000 settlement.

The county ambulance was transporting Gregory to Winter Haven Hospital on Aug. 23, 2004, on County Road 542 when driver Dawn Shaepert lost control of the vehicle, overturned and crashed into a tree, the Polk County Sheriff s Office has reported.

Firefighter Benjamin Matthew Lang, 22, was assisting the paramedic and died at the scene.

Shaepert was rushed to Winter Haven Hospital in another ambulance.

Gregory and paramedic Michael Tomlinson were airlifted to Lakeland Regional Medical Center. The Sheriff s Office reported Tomlinson had several broken bones.

CONTACT: Amy L. Edwards and Mark Pino of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.