Derrick Meyer didn’t know the 65-year-old emergency medical responder who was killed near McLennan last Monday.
But he felt it.
“It sort of hits home that it could happen to anyone at any time,” said the 33-year-old EMT with Alberta Health Services for Edmonton Metro. “It was an everyday call.”
John O’Mahony was driving a patient from McLennan to Grande Prairie when a trailer truck hauling empty propane tanks crossed the centre line. It is believed O’Mahoney swerved to save others in the ambulance.
Whether or not the death is a case of driver error, Meyer said there is a lack of respect for ambulances on the road.
“The majority of EMS personnel don’t want to go lights and sirens,” he said. “But it’s our protocol if certain things happen.”
Meyer has been involved in two instances — one on Groat Road here in Edmonton and one four years ago near Hinton — when vehicles wound up in other accidents because drivers were “rubbernecking” or looking at the ambulance instead of where they were driving. He said the vehicles barely missed the ambulance both times.
Ian Wilson is managing director of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund, which works to prevent workplace fatalities and injuries to emergency services personnel.
He said a current provincewide campaign is attempting to educate the public to stay alert behind the wheel and pull over when emergency vehicles approach.
“In an emergency situation, seconds count,” he said. “It can be the difference between life and death.”