May 3, 2016

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