Ambulance destroyed in collision with tractor-trailer

Staff Writer

DELAND,FL -- John Curry fought to keep his truck on the shoulder of the road and out of the ambulance's way, but the trailer he was pulling "wiggled," and he lost control. Curry's truck pulled a trailer that was too large, authorities said. When the truck swerved back onto the road, it smashed into the left side of the ambulance that then struck a large oak tree Monday. Pieces of the emergency vehicle lay around the tree. Gauze, bandages and other medical supplies spilled through an open back door. Emergency medical technician Ken Nootbaar 41, was driving the ambulance and suffered serious injuries, said EVAC spokesman Mark O'Keefe. Nootbaar was transported by another ambulance to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, where he was listed in stable condition, said Halifax hospital spokeswoman Kate Holcomb. Paramedic Keri Kimball, 27, who was riding in the back of the ambulance with a 79-year-old patient, Margie Tharp, suffered minor injuries. Both were taken to Florida Hospital DeLand, O'Keefe said. Tharp was conscious and in stable condition, said Melissa King, spokeswoman for Florida Hospital DeLand. Kimball was treated and released, O'Keefe said. Nootbaar and Patterson had just picked up Tharp from her home in Glenwood and were southbound on Grand Avenue with lights and sirens on when Curry's truck hit the ambulance, O'Keefe said. "There were cars in front of the ambulance and they were not moving," Curry, 25, said. "I tried to get off the road to give way, but I lost control." The flatbed trailer separated from Curry's truck and struck the left side of his truck as it spun. A tractor that was on the trailer fell off and lay on its side in the southbound lanes of Grand Avenue about a half-mile north of Plymouth Avenue. Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Glenn Gaugh said the trailer was too large for Curry's truck, and he will be charged with carrying an unlawful load. Tharp had fallen at her home on Sunday and was doing well. While her daughter, Cheryl Downs, was waiting for the day nurse to show up Monday morning, her mother lost consciousness and Downs called for an ambulance. Tharp was thrown from the gurney in the accident, said Downs, a public relations official at Stetson University. Tharp had X-rays and a CAT scan at Florida Hospital-DeLand and did not appear to be seriously injured, Downs said. "She's really banged up from the accident, but nothing's broken," Downs said. The ambulance was totaled and will be going to the junkyard, O'Keefe said. EVAC has fewer than 1.5 accidents for every 100,000 miles driven, O'Keefe said. "While these numbers reflect all types of accidents, like minor fender-benders and drivers' fault, today's accident of this magnitude is very rare and unusual," O'Keefe said Monday. Last year EVAC's 35 ambulances and 12 support vehicles responded to 68,000 emergency calls, traveling 1.2 million miles. The $150,000 ambulance was insured, O'Keefe said. -- Staff Writer Cindi Brownfield contributed to this report.
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