OCILLA, Ga. (AP) — An ambulance with its lights and sirens on collided Thursday with a semitrailer on a Georgia highway, killing the two medics and the patient on board, authorities said.
The Georgia State Patrol said in a news release that the wreck happened around 5 a.m. Thursday on state Highway 32, near the small town of Ocilla in south Georgia.
Authorities said the Coffee County ambulance was heading east with its lights and siren activated when the westbound semi jack-knifed across the centerline and into the path of the ambulance. The ambulance struck the left side of the semi.
The truck jack-knifed when a car ahead of it began to pull off the road, police said.
The State Patrol says the patient was Charles Arvin Smith, 65, of Tifton. The emergency medical technicians were identified as Teresa Ann Davis, 44, of Axson, who was driving the ambulance; and Randall Whiddon, 56, of Ashburn, who was riding in the front passenger seat.
George Heck, CEO of Coffee Regional Medical Center, said Davis and Whiddon were transporting Smith to another hospital in Tifton. Davis worked as an EMT at the hospital for more than a decade, Heck said, while Whiddon had been on staff for "a few years."
"It's a small community, a tight-knit community at the hospital, especially in the EMT department," Heck said. "They're obviously taken aback by such a tragedy."
Whiddon's son, Ben, said his father retired as Turner County EMS director and fire chief in April 2012, and had been working part-time as an EMT in Coffee and Irwin counties since then. He was a 35-year veteran of the field.
"He was very outgoing, very people-oriented. He gave back to his community as a director," Ben Whiddon said. "Every death in Turner County — if he knew you or not — he came to pay his respects in uniform."
The State Patrol identified the semi driver as Rockwell Lott of Tifton. It wasn't immediately known if he was hurt.
The crash scene is about 180 miles south of Atlanta.