October 31, 2014

Medina
Rain
42°F

Ambulance driver takes lesser charge in fatal crash

ELYRIA — Prosecutors dropped vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter charges against a Grafton Township Fire Department ambulance driver who was involved in a fatal car crash last year while he was driving a patient to the hospital.

Richard Robertson, 27, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of proper operation of an emergency vehicle during a hearing last week in Elyria Municipal Court and was fined $150.

Elyria City Prosecutor Cynthia Adams said dropping the more serious charges that centered on the death of 82-year-old Zygmut Pacyna of Hinckley Township was the right thing to do based on the evidence.

She said while Robertson had slowed down as he approached state Route 303 from Island Road in an ambulance with lights and sirens activated, it didn’t appear that Pacyna slowed his Chevrolet Cavalier.

Kenneth Lieux, Robertson’s attorney, said the other cars on the road all stopped when they saw the ambulance, which was carrying a man who had been injured after falling off his roof.

He said reconstructions of the accident from both the Ohio Highway Patrol and a private company reached the same conclusions.

“Everybody pretty much agreed that the deceased must not have comprehended what was going on or didn’t see it,” Lieux said.

Troopers have estimated that Pacyna’s car was traveling 53 mph at the time of the crash. Robertson was going under 10 mph when the ambulance went through the intersection and collided with the Cavalier, Lieux said.

Robertson told Fire Department officials that the ambulance was “barely rolling” when he went through the intersection and that it appeared the Cavalier had picked up speed just before the crash.

Adams said she would have had to prove that Robertson hadn’t exercised due caution when he went through the stop sign on Island Road, but the evidence she had didn’t support that.

Robertson, another EMT, Thomas Smolilo, and the patient in the back, Robert Kowalski, were all treated and released at area hospitals, while Pacyna was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lieux said Robertson continues to work for Grafton Township Fire Department.

He said his client agreed to plead to what amounted to a traffic ticket to put an end to the case.

“Obviously, he feels horrible about what happened,” Lieux said.

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