“Mayday! Mayday!” the ambulance driver’s voice shouted from the radio just before midnight Tuesday.
But when emergency personnel following GPS locators found the vehicle on its side on the westbound on-ramp to the 215 Beltway near Las Vegas Boulevard South, they found only one survivor among its three occupants.
Killed in the rollover crash was the first responder riding in the back of the AMR ambulance, 57-year-old Garry John, and a still unidentified patient. The driver, who was not identified, was hospitalized at University Medical Center with unspecified injuries before being released before noon.
“Definitely the physical injuries are minor so he’s fine in that way, but he’s devastated by this incident,” AMR regional director Scott White said at a news conference Tuesday.
The driver’s mayday call notified AMR supervisors and local law enforcement of a “code 5” situation, which signals someone is in need of immediate help, but didn’t provide a location.
Following signals to the scene
AMR personnel, Nevada Highway Patrol investigators and Clark County Fire Department crews followed the signals from the GPS trackers to the 215 on-ramp, where they found ambulance MC 10 on its side, its headlights still on.
White said the ambulance had picked up the patient from a local hospital at 11:29 p.m. and was taking him to a nursing facility, when it hydroplaned on the oil-slicked ramp. It rolled several times until it it hit a rock embankment on the side of the highway.
Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Jason Buratczuk said the weather was most likely a factor in the crash, after overnight rainfall left valley roads wet and slick.
Before Monday evening’s showers, the valley hadn’t seen significant rain since Jan. 9, according to the National Weather Service.
“This was a first responder we lost. When NHP responds to these fatal crashes it’s always a tragedy, but it really hits home when it’s one of our own,” a choked up Buratczuk, tears welling in his eyes, said early Tuesday at the scene of the crash.
Just before 5 a.m., John was given a line of duty escort to the Clark County coroner’s office by Highway Patrol troopers, Metropolitan Police Department officers and members of AMR management.
NHP Troopers, @LVMPD_Traffic and First Responders from @AMRLasVegas have finished the escort of the fallen AMR First Responder from the scene of last nights Fatal Crash. Rest In Peace Sir. #⚫️🔴⚫️ #⚫️🔵⚫️ #nhpsocomm pic.twitter.com/zVxGKnLERu
— NHP Southern Command (@NHPSouthernComm) February 13, 2018
John had been with the emergency response company for four years, White confirmed. His death marked the first time in at least 25 years that an AMR employee was killed in the line of duty in Southern Nevada.
Assigned to medical transport
He was assigned to AMR’s non-emergency medical transportation division, which is dedicated to caring for and transporting patients who are bedridden or in wheelchairs, said White.
As a transport division employee, John would not have been an initial first responder on the night of Oct. 1, White said, when a mass shooter perched on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay killed 58 and injured hundreds more attending the nearby Route 91 country music festival.
“But I can tell you that everyone in this organization worked either a direct role or a support role in 1 October or the days following,” he said.
White said the driver had been with the company since December 2016.
The Highway Patrol will lead the investigation into the fatal crash. Buratczuk, the patrol spokesman, said dashcam footage will help investigators piece together the moments before the ambulance crashed.
No other details surrounding the crash were immediately available, but White confirmed John was restrained by a seatbelt and sitting next to the patient, who was strapped in on a gurney.
The Clark County coroner’s office will identify the patient once their family has been notified, and determine what killed the two.
“This is a sad day for our teams and our community,” White said. “Our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of our team member and the patient as they deal with their loss. We are grateful one of our other team members survived and is out of the hospital.”