Paramedic dies in hospital after fatal crash


WARNING: Contains images that may be confronted.

CHRISTEL YARDLEY/STUFF

Two people have died after a car and ambulance collided south of Cambridge.

The driver of an ambulance injured in a fatal crash south of Cambridge has died.

The Cambridge Volunteer Fire Department was called at around 3.40am Wednesday morning to a collision between an ambulance and a car on SH1 near Karapiro.

The driver of the car died at the scene, in an accident the squad leader calls the worst they have seen in some time.

The seriously injured ambulance driver was airlifted to Waikato Hospital, but police said in a statement after 5 p.m. that he died in hospital. Another paramedic, who was inside the vehicle at the time, was slightly injured.

The ambulance was heading south and the car was heading north. There were no patients in the ambulance.

The scene as day broke on the stretch of rural road was one of destruction. A silver Audi saloon lay in a pool of leaked coolant, the familiar shape of a nearby St John’s ambulance.

But instead of helping, he lay with his engine almost disintegrated and his wheels crumpled under the cabin from the violence of the collision.

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Cambridge Fire Chief Dennis Hunt said when the crew saw the emergency services were involved they initiated another report.

“We treat everyone the same, but when you see an emergency vehicle you think ‘oh geez’. You hope everyone is okay.

The brigade took two rescue trucks to the scene.

“There was one [person] trapped in each vehicle, so we extricated the person in the ambulance who was in critical condition and secured the scene.

He said it was probably the worst accident they had had this year.

“With the new [Cambridge section of the Waikato] highway we don’t get the fronts like we used to so they slowed down a lot.

The accident happened on State Highway 1 in the Waikato, near Cambridge, in the early hours of Wednesday, police said.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

The accident happened on State Highway 1 in the Waikato, near Cambridge, in the early hours of Wednesday, police said.

“We had one last year and it was pretty big. This is probably one of the worst we would have seen this year in our area.

The road – just 2 kilometers south of the end of the median barriers and the 110 km/h motorway signs – has a series of gentle turns between the straights.

The stretch of road, where traffic is once again redirected to a two-lane carriageway, was notorious for accidents, Hunt said.

“It’s been known for years and years as a really bad area, we have a lot of accidents through that stretch. It’s a huge area for us up to the Mobil gas station [2 kilometres away]”.

Hunt said it was raining when they arrived at the scene. There was quite a bit of traffic on the road and although it is normal for there to be a number of trucks, he said there were also a lot of cars at this time of day.

The driver of the car died in the crash and two St John staff in the ambulance were injured, one seriously.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

The driver of the car died in the crash and two St John staff in the ambulance were injured, one seriously.

“We’re just sorry to all the families involved and hope the ambulance driver can pull through.”

The road remained closed between Cambridge and Karāpiro until after 2 p.m., causing long detours and queues.

An initial police statement said a vehicle crashed into the back of an ambulance, but Highway Patrol Sergeant Matthew Crossan said at the scene the two vehicles collided head-on.

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The Serious Crash Unit was investigating.

St John said the organization was helping the police but its injured personnel were the priority.

Police initially thought the car entered the back of the ambulance on SH1, but it was later confirmed to be a head-on collision.

Christel Yardley / Stuff

Police initially thought the car entered the back of the ambulance on SH1, but it was later confirmed to be a head-on collision.

“Our focus at this time is to support our people and our hearts go out to them, their extended family and friends at this difficult time,” said Deputy General Manager of Ambulance Operations Dan Ohs.

St John’s spokeswoman Amy Milne said two ambulances, two rapid response vehicles, a clinical officer and a helicopter responded to the crash.

One patient was airlifted to Waikato Hospital in critical condition and another was taken to hospital in moderate condition by ambulance.

At 7:50 a.m., Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand Waikato spokesperson Andrew McAlley said one patient was in theater in serious condition and another patient was in stable condition.

Waipā Mayor Jim Mylchreest said there was a history of serious accidents at intersections along this stretch, near the Mobil gas station and Piarere intersection, after the freeway ended Waikato.

“It’s an absolutely shocking accident and my heart goes out to everyone involved.”

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