Drifting ambulance strikes paramedic, police officer after fatal E. Pittsburgh crash

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An ambulance that responded to a fatal multi-vehicle crash Friday evening in East Pittsburgh drifted after the driver exited, rolled over a paramedic's legs and clipped a police officer before it was stopped.

The Priority One EMS ambulance was responding to a four-vehicle collision that killed Albert Muhlenbecher, 86, of East Pittsburgh and injured one of the other drivers.

After the ambulance driver got out, the vehicle began drifting, according to East Pittsburgh police Chief Lori Payne and a civilian witness.

"He pulled up, got out. We don't know what gear it was in. It wasn't all the way in park," Chief Payne said Saturday. "After he exited, it started to drift ... He was moving to help the other people and it just rolled over him."

Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said he understood the paramedic had two broken legs. He said the crash is being investigated by his homicide squad.

A statement issued by Priority One Medic Saturday night said in part that the ambulance driver, having stopped to let another medic out to treat a patient, was placing the ambulance "in a defensive road position" when another patient was deemed in critical need.

The driver got out and "immediately recognized that the vehicle was moving and attempted to re-enter the vehicle, during this attempt the crew member fell and was struck by the rear wheels of the vehicle," the statement read.

Superintendent Moffatt said the police officer -- identified by Chief Payne as a Braddock officer -- injured an ankle. He was not transported to the hospital, according to Chief Payne.

A North Braddock police officer managed to jump into the ambulance and stop it, Chief Payne said. Authorities said they did not have the names of those injured.

The accident occurred around 6:30 p.m. at Route 30 and Center Street when Mr. Muhlenbecher crossed the center lane and struck a car traveling in the opposite direction, Chief Payne said. An autopsy Saturday found that Mr. Muhlenbecher died of head, neck and body injuries, according to the medical examiner's office.

The woman driving the vehicle that was hit sustained head injuries and was taken to Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville. She is from North Versailles. Her name and age were not available.

Police do not believe speed, careless driving or alcohol were factors, according to the chief.

"It pretty much is what it is -- an accident," Chief Payne said. "It doesn't seem like there's any type of recklessness."

There were no problems with visibility or weather, Chief Payne said. The speed limit is 45 mph and the roadway is relatively straight where the crash occurred.

Two other cars were damaged in the aftermath of the collision, but Chief Payne said officers had not yet sorted out what happened. Neither of those drivers was injured, she said.

Earl Kauffman, 40, said the crash happened at the rear of his house, where the injured woman's car stopped no more than 10 feet from his property.

"We heard boom, boom, boom-boom-boom, and the whole house shook," Mr. Kauffman said. "When I say it shook, it moved the furniture."

Mr. Kauffman said he went out to render aid and had his back turned when the ambulance struck the paramedic and police officer.

"I heard, 'Get the bus! Get the bus! The ambulance is still in drive,' " Mr. Kauffman said. "I turned around. The back tires were going over his legs."


Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1962, or on Twitter @jsilverpg. Staff writer Bill Schackner contributed. First Published December 21, 2013 3:33 PM

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