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Sunday, November 11, 2012

MIC 3 Give Me the Air!

MIC 3 Give Me the Air!

(pronounced as mick)

by Steven P. Velasquez
November 11, 2012

"MIC 3 Urgent!! Give me the air!!" 

(A paramedic's voice panting and confused, only able to process the name of one of the two intersecting streets they're on)  

"I'm on Central and... (long pause) 
I'm just east of 1st Street....  (another pause) 
MIC 3 I'm on Central Ave...." (radio silence)

Dispatcher - "Units clear the air! MIC 3, your location!?  Are you injured!?" 
(The sound of a microphone keying up, but only labored breathing is heard).  

Dispatcher - "MIC 3 repeat your last!!"

This is the kind of radio transmission that no one in public safety wants to hear.  A unit, clearly in distress and disoriented is calling for help but can't clear their thoughts enough to articulate a clear message.  Their vehicle has been struck by another, at a high rate of speed and redirected into a tree.

Green means it's safe right?
Paramedic educator / legend John Nichol is said to have told his students;

 "The most dangerous place to be in Newark, is at a green light."  

 He told them this truism because of the ridiculous amount of auto-theft and subsequent collisions that follow from joy riding, to car-jacking, to police pursuits.  Last night, Nichol's pearls of wisdom proved true for this author in particular.

While traveling to our post (a designated street corner where we await disaster and mayhem), we slowly rolled down a street and proceeded through a light-controlled intersection (and yes, my light was in fact, GREEN!)  when my attention was immediately turned left by the sound of a siren.  By the time I looked and saw a New Jersey State Trooper chasing a fleeing vehicle, it was too late.  The suspect vehicle struck my unit across the front and redirected us into a tree along a curb.

I could hear the subsequent impact of the suspects' vehicle followed by the commanding screams and shouts of the Troopers taking down the perps.  What I couldn't do was get out to see or help or anything.  By the sounds of things, it would only be a few seconds before I heard a hail of gunfire and with my vehicle disabled, I'd have nowhere to go but down and pray the gunfight didn't come our way.  I thought of three things only; breathing, my partner Nicole, and my children.  My partner (Nicole) assured me she was okay and directed her attention to me. I tried to focus on wrapping my head around what was happening and also trying to remain conscious.


The Response

SOG was returning from Sandy detail
401, 410, Rescue 1, 1201, 1203, MIC 4, MIC 1 and SOG (Special Operations Group) members returning from assisting the victims of Super-Storm Sandy all came to help us. If it had a motor and worked, it was on the way. And I'll admit, I have never been so happy to see their faces.

Within a flash of light, a hostile transfer of energy, mass, velocity, force and direction, I was struck by the bad guys' car and thus transformed from caregiver to patient.  My cape had been stripped, my light saber dimmed and no longer could I leap tall buildings or fly.  I was hurt, confused and in the gentile hands of my co-workers, my beloved brothers and sisters.

I must admit they look a lot different from beneath.  I saw all their faces.  I saw them look into my eyes, some stroked my hair. They held my hand and coached my breathing and assured me all would be well. We've danced this dance a thousand times, but I'm always beside and not beneath.  They treated me according to best practices and they allayed my fears as we traveled to the hospital.  Later, two by two, the units marched into my room, offered help and wished me well.  Some helped coordinate my family's arrival at the E.R. (a great help).  I could ask for no better group of people to call my co-workers, to call my family.

Long story short is this:
  • My partner and I were treated and released at the local trauma center.  
  • Bad guy 1 has broken the law and is now in custody.  
  • Bad guy 2 succumbed to the laws of physics and is now in the Lord's hands (this was believed to be fact at the time of this writing and changed later, see below)
  • I'm not sure about how extensive the damage is to my vehicle.  I do feel bad because 1 less vehicle in an already decimated fleet is good for no one.

Processing - How do you process this?

I process first by giving thanks and evaluating things from higher ground.  Poor me, why me, woe is me, has never served me well.  Things happen for a reason.  We live in a world of cause and effect and the curious mind constantly seeks the answers.  I have a curious mind.

What am I thankful for?  My God, where does a man start?  I want to thank Ford Motor Co. for building a strong vehicle with crumple zones, rigid frames etc...  Had I been in my personal vehicle, I might be trying to type while sedated on a vent in a surgical ICU somewhere.  Had I been on my Harley? I'd be with Opie, Piney and Half Sack (<<-- Gratuitous "Sons Of Anarchy" reference) trying to get my Facebook to post to you from Heaven. 

I'm thankful for another day to be a father to my daughters, a paramedic to my patients, a co-worker and friend  to others.

I'm thankful that this was at 10:30 at night and not day.  A daytime incident at that particular intersection would certainly have claimed more lives, innocents and likely children.

I'm thankful for timing. A second faster and we'd be broadsided and likely turned over.  I'd have a couple hundred pounds of oxidizing gas (oxygen) right behind my head in the form of an oxygen missile.

Terry Hoben - ALS Coordinator

I'm thankful it was me and not one of my co-workers.  I would do anything for these people and couldn't bear to see any of them suffer.  And in a strange way, I'm almost thankful that our unit was able to absorb this impact and stop these alleged criminals.  This city suffers enough on a daily basis and needs not -- another innocent victim.  I'm tired of seeing teddy bears, flowers and candles at make-shift memorials for children.

I'm thankful  for Terry Hoben, my director who came from home to be at our side.  I'm thankful to the communications staff in REMCS (Chief Acosta, Alex, Mary, Kristi and others) for trying to find where we were and to send the troops our way.  I'm thankful for Chief's O'Keefe and Visoskas who showed compassion and support (and paperwork!).  I'm thankful for my fellow B-Teamers and all our staff here at UHEMS for continuing to show others that this is how it's done.  This is how WE roll.  It may not be the only way... but certainly is a very good way.

UHEMS Special Operations Patch

MIC 3 Is Off the Air - Out of Service (for now)

 MIC III - B Team



  1. Steve, any idea how I can get my hands on a recording radio chatter from that day? After reading this, I'm interested in hearing the event unfold.

  2. Also, it turns out the the dead guy was an innocent bystander rather than the chase suspect (there was only one, the driver).

  3. The only way one could obtain that would be through REMCS or if there is someone out there dedicating their time & resources to recording around the clock at home. I don't know of an official way to obtain that.

    And yes, we discovered three days after the incident that the deceased was in fact, an innocent bystander. We've dealt with that pain ever since that night.

    Thank you for reading.