Oakfield Twp. crash shows dangers of ambulance response

Kent County

STANTON, Mich. (WOOD) — A crash involving a Montcalm County Emergency Medical Services ambulance and an SUV has shed light on a danger faced by first responders that the public doesn’t always think about.

“It’s the thing we do most frequently. It’s the thing that has the most danger. And when something bad happens, it has the worst consequences,” Eric Smith, Montcalm County EMS director, said.

All of that was realized when the SUV failed to negotiate a curve in the road.

The ambulance was transporting a non-emergency patient through Kent County and heading west on M-57 around 10 p.m. Monday as the eastbound SUV approached a curve in the road.

“When they should have curved, it appears they went straight and they crossed the center line,” Smith said. “Our guy that was driving our truck took evasive action the best he could, just couldn’t get away.”

The SUV hit the ambulance behind the passenger door. The impact tore apart the SUV and sent the 13,000-pound ambulance on its side.

The driver of the SUV, a 39-year-old Greenville woman, had to be cut out of what’s left of the vehicle.

State Police say drugs, alcohol and speed may be factors in the crash.

The paramedic, EMT and patient in the ambulance were hospitalized with minor injuries.

The scene of a crash involving an ambulance and another vehicle in Oakfield Township on April 5, 2021.

“People don’t realize the risk that’s involved with getting somewhere and getting to the hospital,” Smith said.

A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration listed 4,500 crashes involving ambulances between 1999 and 2011.

Of those crashes, 33 were fatal and 2,600 people were injured. Those numbers include those both in the ambulance and others in vehicles involved.

Montcalm County paramedics, EMT’s and first responders are required to take an emergency vehicle operations course before they can get behind the wheel.

“We have professional drivers you might say, so the driver did everything he should have done. (It) was just something that was unavoidable,” Smith said. “We typically travel nearly 750,000 miles a year with all of our ambulances and rescue combined. So, the opportunity for something like this is incredibly high.”

The crash remains under investigation by Michigan State Police.

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