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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ambulance Aides Mourn Loss

Ambulance Aides Mourn Loss

by Steven P. Velasquez, MICP
November 20, 2012

The headline above is a direct  stab at the irresponsible media outlets that have had over thirty five years to learn who we, in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS), are.  It appears that even if we sacrifice our lives (or have them taken from us), these drones, who insist on ridiculous politically correct terms for everyone but us, can't get it right. We are not ambulance attendants, ambulance aides, stretcher tenders, ambulance drivers or, as we were so shamefully bunched during the attacks of September 11, 2001 - first responders.  We are your municipalities third service. We are an extension of the hospitals. We are mobile health services. We are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), Paramedics (MICP) and Registered Nurses (R.N.'s).  We are an essential part of the trinity of public protection, Police, Fire and EMS.  We have earned that distinction through sacrifice, compassion and service to mankind and sometimes we earn it with our blood or ultimate sacrifice.  During this past week, our service has been dealt several devastating blows and now we have lost one of our brothers.

The following is an attempt to journal a sad page in EMS history that is currently being written here in Newark, New Jersey's largest city. 

An unfortunate series of events unfolded Monday, November 19th as shots rang  out, lives were lost, police cars crashed, Troopers gave chase through busy daytime traffic, and a fleeing suspect vehicle crashed into an ambulance killing 30 year-old Keith Chipepo, an EMT working for Grand Medical Transportation (GMT) of Irvington, NJ.  Chipepo was reportedly ejected from the patient compartment of his ambulance while caring for a patient who fortunately was strapped to a stretcher and thus left uninjured.  Chipepo's partner, who was driving, is reported to have sustained fractures to several extremities, but has been released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

Tuesday night, several EMS agencies visited a make-shift memorial at the intersections of South Orange Ave. and South 9th St., where the fatal multi-vehicle collision occurred.  Agencies that can often appear polarized (transport vs. 911 services), though we carry the same certifications, set aside petty differences and parked their vehicles silently beside a humble roadside memorial made of candles, balloons, some memorabilia and a water colored painting to Daddy, -- from Chipepo's children.

Roadside memorials are all too common a sight in the Brick City.  They mark where families are destroyed, lives are lost and pain remains.  This humble site will soon be removed as time waits for no one and vigils pass in a single breath.

Paramedic Nicole Ackerman (UHEMS) looks over the memorial
EMS agencies from Union Township, MONOC, Elizabeth F.D. EMS, GMT (Grand Medical Transport), Guardian Ambulance, Nationwide Ambulance, LifeStar, Madison Coach and several units from University Hospital's EMS Dept. each stopped and paid respect to the memory and the sacrifice made by EMT Keith Chipepo.

This is the second fatal accident in a week involving the NJ State Police and EMS personnel.  The first occurred on Saturday Nov. 10th at Central and Norfolk Streets where a chase that originated on Rte. 280 spilled onto local streets, crashed into a UHEMS paramedic unit and killed an innocent pedestrian, also in his thirties and also of Montclair, NJ.  This author was the driver of that ambulance.  

To receive news of a second collision with such similar circumstances, in the same place has shocked many.  Some, who believe in bad things happening in threes, are waiting for the next devastating blow.  We hope this does not happen and pray for all affected by these recent tragedies. 

Funeral arrangements for EMT Keith Chipepo are forthcoming.  To anyone in emergency services, we ask that you please attempt to be there.  Show Keith's family and children how much he is loved and appreciated and that his life, in the service of mankind is worth something and will not be forgotten.

Rest In Peace Brother - Your work here is done. Last alarm 19th November 2012.
A Thanksgiving turkey made with watercolors, glued feathers and his children's names

Rest In Peace - EMT Keith Chipepo


Montclair resident Keith Chipepo, 30, killed in Ambulance Crash: Charges Filed  - The Jersey Tomato Press

Man charged, EMT killed in multi-vehicle crash - Eyewitness News 7

MIC 3 Give me the air! - Granting "Sirenity"

2 dead, 6 hurt in ambulance crash, police car crash and shooting in Newark - The Star-Ledger




  1. Thank you for that well written and insightful article, Steve. My sincerest condolences to Keith's family and the entire Newark area EMS community.

    Mary Ann Melville, former MONOC MICP

  2. Incredible job expressing what most of us are feeling Steve.

    Deepest condolences to EMT Chipepo's Family, at home and in the EMS Community.

    Be safe Friends.

    Andy Caruso, MONOC EMS

  3. You really captured how most of us feel.

    If you search for line of duty deaths for the fire department you instantly get FEMA's website 72

    search for police line of duty deaths you get( 109

    But search for EMS and the only websites I've been able to find are memorial pages.

    It's sad that these fallen members of EMS aren't shown the respect and memory they deserve.

    Deepest condolences to EMT Chipepo's family and to the families of all those lost.

  4. Well written. RIP Brother.

    Police - the Finest
    Firefighters - The Bravest
    EMS - The Forgotten