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Volunteer ambulance EMT calls for concern after crash

A volunteer ambulance crew in Tonopah, who transported a patient from a motor vehicle crash at the beginning of October to Bishop, California, found themselves in harm’s way on the return trip.

A three-person crew on Tonopah Medic 11 transported a patient from a motor vehicle crash to Northern Inyo Hospital in Bishop on Oct. 1. On the return trip, the crew hit a boulder in the road on U.S. Highway 6.

John Burton, who volunteers as an emergency medical technician for the Volunteer Ambulance Service in Tonopah, said he felt a jolt, followed by a loud scraping sound on impact in a Facebook post describing the crash. Burton was in the back of the ambulance at the time.

“The ambulance appeared to be out of control, we veered across the opposite lane into oncoming traffic,” Burton stated.

The ambulance slid across the road, as the driver had lost control of the vehicle because of the size of the boulder, and eventually came to a halt on the other side of the road and landed in an embankment.

Burton, who has been volunteering for the last five years, said he’s never experienced a similar situation but danger is there, along with other potential risk factors.

“Other potential hazards could be, other motorists, construction zones, rain/snow which can affect visibility and traction, and of course animals like deer and cows,” Burton said in an interview following the crash.

At this point in Tonopah, there is still no hospital and volunteers give their time to transport patients to Bishop or Mount Grant Hospital in Hawthorne. Traveling to those locations can equate to more than 200 miles in driving, costing around six hours of time, if everything works out the way it’s supposed to, Burton said.

Nye Regional Medical Center closed in Tonopah in August 2015. The nearest hospitals are more than 100 miles away in Bishop and Hawthorne. Tonopah also has no emergency room or urgent care.

Burton has some concerns about the number of volunteers that are available these days at the station. The volunteer ambulance service in Tonopah “is pretty much running on fumes when it comes to personnel,” Burton said.

The 24-hour, seven-day-a-week coverage had six emergency service personnel listed on the schedule for October, all with various skill sets. One volunteer was listed as a driver only, with two new emergency medical technicians and three advanced personnel.

To get more prepared volunteers, Burton is planning to offer an emergency medical technician course in February 2018 in Tonopah.

Burton said there are some other volunteers from the surrounding area that help out when they can.

It can be taxing on the volunteers, depending on how many calls come in. Burton estimated that over 300 calls a year come into the Tonopah station.

Burton spends his days out at the Round Mountain Gold Corp. as a health and safety coordinator and fills in on the weekend to help relieve people who have been on during the week.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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