JACKSON, Mich. — Fellow emergency medical technicians said Cheryl Kiefer was always willing to come in to work whenever she was needed. She did just that early Saturday morning, volunteering to transport a patient between hospitals in Oakland County.
She never made it home.
Kiefer, 23, of Brooklyn and her partner from Jackson Community Ambulance were on their way back to Jackson when they stopped to assist a woman whose truck had spun into the ditch on I-94 near the Kalmbach Road exit in Sylvan Township. Shortly after 6 a.m., another driver lost control of his SUV, which rolled over on top of Kiefer, pinning her between the two vehicles.
Police said the SUV’s driver, a 46-year-old Jackson man, was traveling too fast for the icy conditions and may face criminal charges in Wash-tenaw County.
Rescue workers from the Chelsea Area Fire Authority worked for almost a half hour to free Kiefer, who remained unconscious. She was transported to University of Michigan Medical Center and declared dead about 8:45 a.m.
The death is the first time any employee of Huron Valley Ambulance, which operates Jackson Community Ambulance in conjunction with Foote Health System, has been killed while working, spokeswoman Joyce Williams said.
Kiefer was a former firefighter with the Columbia Township Fire Department. She had worked part-time for the ambulance company for about one year and hoped to become a paramedic. She is survived by her parents and a sister.
“She was a very energetic, vibrant person,” Williams said. “It’s just a real tragedy.”
Police do not believe drugs or alcohol were involved.
“There’s no doubt inclement weather (and) driving too fast for conditions was the cause of the crash,” said Sgt. Tony Cuevas of the Michigan State Police Ypsilanti Post, which responded to the scene.
Once the state police’s Traffic Crash Reconstruction Unit finishes its report, it will be forwarded to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, which will decide on charges.
Chelsea Fire Capt. Augustine Syrovy said only Kiefer’s leg was trapped under the SUV, but conditions made the rescue difficult.
“The ditch probably had about a foot of water in it,” he said. “The slopes were muddy and it was covered in snow.”
Firefighters dug around her leg and placed wedges to keep the SUV from sliding, then used a winch on one of their vehicles to lift the SUV about 5 inches.
The snow had grounded University of Michigan Survival Flight helicopters, so flight nurses were picked up in an ambulance. They met up with the ambulance carrying Kiefer at Zeeb Road.
“Anytime any fire, police or EMS (worker) is killed, it hurts,” Williams said. “It hits you very hard. It’s a reminder of how dangerous the job can be.”Borek Jennings Funeral Home in Brooklyn is handling funeral arrangements.