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Wednesday, March 20, 2013


by Steven P. Velasquez
March 19, 2013

There are times in a person's life when one gets dangerously close to physical events around them, at great peril to themselves. Some people have jobs that bring them closer to such danger more often. Some of us call it "a day at the office."

EMS MVC in Prince Georges County VA
An emergency service worker is often tasked with responding to MVC's (motor vehicle collisions). Too often, responders are directly involved in MVC's as part of their job requires expeditious driving (not reckless driving) to emergencies. This calculated risk is necessary as time is of the essence when it comes to protecting human life. Compound that with a greatly distracted, often inebriated, densely populated area, and you now have many of the ingredients of  New Jersey's urban environments (Camden, Trenton, Jersey City, Paterson and Newark). 

We had just cleared up after BLS cancelled us on a call in Newark, NJ. We left the scene and proceeded down a side street, then turned left on Stuyvesant Ave (a much larger street). It was after three a.m. and there was no traffic to avoid. I could see one slow moving taxi approaching me in the opposite lane; traffic as usual, and no  perceived threats.

As the taxi passed the front of my ambulance and was beginning to vanish in my left blind-spot, their was an enormous explosion! I heard and felt the incredibly loud event and was shaken by the concussive force. My ambulance shook violently and my window was showered with debris. My partner and I immediately wondered if we had been hit but there was not a significant enough jolt to our vehicle for that. Our second thought was that we may have been nicked or side-swiped. A quick view out my window revealed that the taxi had been struck head on, and at an incredibly high speed. I realized then that the striking vehicle was headed right for my rear and had swerved at the last second, but also realized my partner and I may still not be out of danger. We assumed this vehicle was stolen and likely was occupied by less than law-abiding citizens. We punched the accelerator to avoid being anywhere near them had they exited the vehicle with guns blazing.
 Startled and shaken, I notified our dispatch center (REMCS) to send a BLS unit, our heavy rescue, a supervisor and law enforcement. The troops were on the way. We went up about a block and swung around to get a bird's eye view of the damage,  calculate the resources needed, and an accurate patient count. It was then we noticed the striking vehicle was in full reverse, chirping its' tires and backing away from the crushed taxi. Once freed, the vehicle turned "gangsta style" and took off up the side street.

Thanks to seatbelts and airbags, the taxi driver sustained only minor injuries. By my assessment, this man should have been maimed or dead. The full-sized sedan (taxi) was crushed with more than two feet of intrusion into the engine compartment. We knew the striking vehicle was a Jeep of some sort as their entire grill, bumper and license plate were left in the wreckage.

While we see this kind of event every single night, we usually see it after the damage is done and are not witnesses to the impact event.
I spent the rest of the night pretty rattled and could think of a thousand places I'd rather be; with my daughters particularly. I couldn't help but begin to think of the dozens of ways that same set of circumstances, with only a slight modification in variables, could have changed my, or my partner's life forever. I couldn't help but feel - spared.


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