Iowa Responder Acquitted of Charges in Ambulance Wreck
MASON CITY — A Mason City Fire Department ambulance driver has been found not guilty of failure of caution by the driver of an emergency vehicle.
Schuyler Townsend, 27, of Mason City, was ticketed after a collision with a sport utility vehicle on June 3.
Five people suffered minor injuries in the crash.
In his ruling filed this week after a trial in Cerro Gordo County District Court, Magistrate Rolf Aronsen said Townsend was driving an ambulance north from Hampton with a patient in critical condition, which required him to proceed through stop lights and stop signs.
Aronsen said there was a sudden heavy downpour when Townsend reached the intersection of Iowa Highway 122 and Federal Avenue, where the accident took place.
Townsend said he had the lights and siren on at all times and slowed down to 5 mph as he entered the intersection, having the red light in his direction of travel.
Both Townsend and the driver of the SUV, Steven Bombella, of Mason City, said they saw each other only at the last split second, according to Aronsen.
“This is not a case where the ambulance was speeding or in any manner going close to the speed limit of 25 mph in his direction of travel,” Aronsen said.
Aronsen said Mason City does not have signal-changing devices at some very busy intersections, including the one at Highway 122 and Federal Avenue.
These devices allow drivers of emergency vehicles to send a signal and change any and all lights in their direction when an emergency exists.
Townsend and fellow firefighters Shannon Furst and Peter Bieber, as well as Bombella and his 16-year-old son, Nico, a passenger in the SUV, received minor injuries and were treated and released from Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa.
The patient in the ambulance, Donald Wawohlford, of Hampton, was transferred to another ambulance.
He was taken to Mercy, where he was treated and released.
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