An ambulance transporting a patient from Delta Junction to Fairbanks Saturday morning was struck head-on by an oncoming pickup truck near the area of Shaw Creek Road at mile 287 of the Richardson Highway.
According to troopers the driver of the south bound pickup truck was attempting to pass a tractor trailer and when he entered the northbound lane, he reportedly saw the oncoming ambulance. The ambulance, operated by Delta Medical Transport and owned by the City of Delta Junction, was totaled in the accident. The pickup was also totaled. The tractor trailer did not stop at the accident scene. It is not known if the driver saw the accident since it occurred behind the cab of the tractor trailer. The accident occurred shortly after 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
Tony White, owner of Delta Medical Transport, said the ambulance was running its emergency lights at the time of the accident, but due to road conditions, was not traveling at a high rate of speed. Road conditions were about normal for this time of year with intermittent icy spots.
Troopers say that both the driver of the ambulance and the pick-up truck took evasive action, causing the two vehicles to collide head-on on the shoulder of the road. The ambulance traveled further off the roadway, coming to a stop a short distance past the point of impact near the shoulder of the pavement. The pick-up truck spun around backwards coming to a stop on the shoulder of the road, causing the snow machine in the back of the pick-up to fly out of the bed.
The driver of the pick-up truck was injured in the accident and transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. The extent of his injuries is not known. No one in the ambulance was injured.
White said the safety features of the ambulance worked as designed.
“I’m thankful no one in the ambulance was injured. It’s one of my worst nightmares to get a call that one of our crews has been involved in an accident,” White said while at the scene. White was the first responder to arrive on the scene. He was traveling to Fairbanks for a hockey game when he got the call about the accident. He turned around and came back to the accident scene.
The patient in the ambulance, who had suffered a medical incident earlier in the day was riding on the gurney in the box on the back of the unit and seemed to suffer no issues as a result of the accident, White said. The paramedic attending to the patient was in the rear facing seat – often referred to as the jump seat or airway seat. According to information online about ambulance design, this is the safest seat for the attendant in the back of the ambulance and is designed to protect the attendant in the event of an accident.
Airbags located in the driver compartment of the ambulance, which is on a standard pickup frame with a standard pickup cab, deployed during the accident.
According to information available on ambulance design, one of the biggest risks for those in the patient compartment of an ambulance is flying equipment during an accident, especially a rollover accident. The ambulance did not rollover during Saturday’s accident.
The crew from Delta Medical Transport was able to continue treatment of the patient they were transporting as well as begin treatment of the driver of the pickup truck.
Fort Greely Fire Department responded on a mutual aid request to treat the driver of the pickup truck and transport him to the hospital. Salcha Fire and Rescue responded as well to provide mutual aid and transferred the original patient from the damaged ambulance to their ambulance and transported them to the hospital. Rural Deltana Volunteer Fire Department, City of Delta Junction Volunteer Fire Department, and Alaska State Troopers also responded to provide scene control and assistance.
The roadway was closed for a little more than an hour as responders worked to get the driver removed from the pickup and the other patient transferred.
The name of the driver of the pickup truck was not available at the time of publication. He was reportedly traveling to Summit to snowmachine for the day.
Note: The author of the article is assistant chief of the Rural Deltana Volunteer Fire Department and was incident commander for the incident.