April 24, 2014

Intermittent clouds

Ambulance driver charged in crash that killed Hinckley Twp. man

ELYRIA — A Grafton Township Fire Department ambulance driver has been charged with vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter in connection with a Sept. 15 crash that left an 82-year-old Hinckley Township man dead.

Richard Robertson, 27, entered a not guilty plea to the misdemeanor charges in Elyria Municipal Court through his attorney on Tuesday.

Rescue workers try to free Zygmut Pacyna of Hinckley Township after a crash Sept. 15. (GAZETTE FILE PHOTO)

Rescue workers try to free Zygmut Pacyna of Hinckley Township after a crash Sept. 15. (GAZETTE FILE PHOTO)

Defense lawyer Kenneth Lieux said he doesn’t believe his client should have been charged.

“His belief is he was operating with due care under the circumstance and it’s just an unfortunate accident,” Lieux said.

The ambulance Robertson was driving was traveling approximately 20 mph with lights and sirens on when it pulled onto state Route 303 from Island Road into the path of a Chevrolet Cavalier driven by Zygmut Pacyna, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.

Troopers estimated Pacyna’s car was going about 53 mph at the time.

Route 303 didn’t have a stop sign that would have required Pacyna to stop at the intersection, but Island Road does have a stop sign, which Robertson drove through.

The patrol has said ambulance drivers have a responsibility to use “due caution” before proceeding through a stop sign.

Robertson, whose last name previously has been reported incorrectly as Robinson, told Grafton Township Fire Department officials he was “barely rolling” at the time of the crash and it appeared the Cavalier sped up before entering the intersection.

Robertson also told fire officials he “almost came to a complete stop” before pulling onto Route 303.

The impact of the crash wedged the ambulance and the Cavalier together.

At the time of the crash, Robertson and another EMT were transporting Robert Kowalski to the hospital after he fell off the roof of his home a few hundred yards away from where the crash occurred.

Kowalski, who was secured to a cot in the back of the ambulance, and the other EMT, Thomas Smolilo, were treated at Medina Hospital and released the day of the crash.

Robertson, who was taken to EMH Regional Medical Center in Elyria, also was treated and released.

Pacyna was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lorain County Coroner Paul Matus has said Pacyna died from blunt force trauma caused by the crash.

Chief Elyria City Prosecutor Jay Grunda, who is handling the case, said he is still reviewing the case file and couldn’t comment on the specifics of the case. A call to the patrol wasn’t returned Tuesday.

Robertson is free on bond and is still with the Grafton Township Fire Department, Assistant Chief Tim Adams said.

Adams said he is still working on the department’s internal investigation into the crash.

Contact Brad Dicken at (440) 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

  • kellyjfinch

    Was the fact that: at 82 years of age there are hearing and vision deficits? Not to mention certain degrees of confusion and excessively slowed motor reflexes at advanced ages. How about the laws that state, regardless of direction or speed, that you are to give right of way to an emergency vehicle. Oh wait, how about the fact that the vehicle was traveling at an excessive speed, I might be wrong but I thought the speed was 45.
    It is an unfortunate situation and I have sympathy for the family in their loss. However, there are times, such as this, that fingers should not be pointed. In doing his job, the ambulance driver was protecting life, I am quite certain he did not have intentions of taking one. Now he will have to live with this on his conscience for the rest of his life, a burden I wish to never have.
    I have seen (too many times) the lack of respect for emergency responders. They risk their lives for society without regard of their own. Yet people still ignore the sirens and barricades, flying past in a huff because of a delay they are now late. When an emergency happens we beg for them to get there quickly, do everything they can, put themselves in harms way. Yet society is there to point a finger the second something doesn’t go their way.
    You wonder why we live in a society of anger, road rage, and not knowing your neighbor or helping a stranger???….. The moment you do any of those you’ve stuck your neck out for a lawsuit, a fine or a jail sentence.
    Get a clue people, pretty soon nobody is going to want to help anyone and this is going to be a very miserable place to live. How would you feel if you were in an emergency situation and there wasn’t a caring person coming to your rescue? Start caring about others and not just yourself!