SUNSTAR Ambulance Struck by Jeep (Pinellas County)
hurt as ambulance hits Jeep
The FHP says the Jeep's driver ran through a red light, causing the wreck.
By RICHARD DANIELSON, Times Staff Writer
Published July 28, 2005
PALM HARBOR - An ambulance rushing to an emergency broadsided a Jeep that ran a red light, sending three people to the hospital Wednesday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The ambulance was headed north on Belcher Road with its lights and sirens on about 9 a.m., Highway Patrol Community Service Officer Tom Marten said. It was being driven by Sunstar emergency medical technician Jack L. Hennes, 29, of Largo, and was not carrying a patient.
As the ambulance approached Belcher's intersection with Nebraska Avenue, the signal for north-south traffic gave the ambulance a green left-turn arrow, witnesses told Marten. The ambulance moved into the left-turn lane, and, as it reached the intersection, the signal turned green for north-south traffic.
The ambulance was moving into the intersection when an eastbound 1999 Jeep Cherokee driven by Michele M. Kelley, 36, of Palm Harbor ran the red light, Marten said. The ambulance struck the Jeep on the passengers' side and both vehicles ended up near the northeastern corner of the intersection.
Hennes, Kelley and Kelley's son, 23-month-old Zachary Kelley, were taken to Mease Countryside Hospital, Marten said. None suffered life-threatening injuries.
"They were all talking and sore" at the time they were transported, Marten said.
All three were treated and released by early Wednesday afternoon, Mease spokesman Matt Novak said.
Kelley, who was cited in the accident, said she was on her way to teach aerobics at the Countryside Country Club and had just dropped off her 5-year-old daughter Danielle at Bible camp. Approaching Belcher on Nebraska, she saw a green light, she said.
"The next thing I know there was an ambulance right on top of me," she said. She said she didn't hear the ambulance until an instant before it hit her.
"I don't want people to think that I'm running red lights with my kid in the car," she said. "Even (with) a yellow light, I don't usually press the gas."
A Sunstar paramedic, Mike Blight, 39, of Tarpon Springs, was not injured. The airbags in the ambulance did not deploy in the collision.
"That is something that we are looking into," said Mark Postma, chief operating officer for Sunstar Paramedics.
The Jeep was a total loss, Marten said.
Damage to the ambulance, a 2004 Ford, was probably between $10,000 and $15,000, but "these units are $100,000, so to try to (make) an estimate is pretty difficult at this time," Postma said.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
[Last modified July 28, 2005, 01:09:17]