On April 29, Tammy Mundell, a 29-year-old mother of five, died after the ambulance she was traveling in was involved in a collision with three other vehicles. Tammy, who worked as an EMT for Rural/Metro’s Southwest Ambulance, was 8½ months pregnant at the time of her accident, which also claimed the life of her unborn child.
The collision occurred at an intersection notorious for accidents, just north of Coolidge, AZ. The ambulance was struck by an 18-wheeler gravel truck that had swerved to avoid a vehicle that had allegedly failed to yield at the stop sign at the intersection. The truck collided with the driver’s side of the ambulance, instantly killing Tammy, who was driving at the time. Both the truck and the ambulance had the right-of-way at the intersection, which is located in a rural area where vehicles routinely travel 40–50 mph.
Mundell and her partner, Sandra Williams, who sustained serious injuries as a result of the collision, were transporting an inmate and a corrections officer from the Arizona State Prison Complex-Florence to a hospital. The ambulance is not believed to have been traveling with lights and siren, according to police reports, says Joshua Weiss, PIO for Southwest Ambulance.
Following the overwhelming response to the accident, Southwest Ambulance set up a message board (www.southwestambulance.com/tammy.htm) for people to post messages of condolence. “Tammy was a great employee,” says Weiss. “Everyone liked working with her.” At press time, there were 265 messages of condolence posted online.
As for how Southwest Ambulance is struggling to deal with this tragic loss, Weiss says that the agency already had contingency plans to deal with such an event. “We had counselors and information ready immediately after the accident,” notes Weiss. “The crash occurred at 3 p.m.; by midnight that same day, we had information posted on our internal websites for the 1,000 employees who work for Southwest.”
In terms of reviewing driver behavior following such an incident, Weiss says that Southwest’s thorough driver training program prepares medics for the dangers they face on the road and that there was little that could be done to have avoided the accident. “I believe we have one of the nation’s best driver training programs,” says Weiss. “Every employee who is eligible to drive goes through a 96-hour course, which includes both classroom and practical instruction, followed by hands-on supervision in the field for a period of time.”
A report in the Arizona Republic suggests that the accident may have been avoided if the Arizona Department of Transportation had issued a permit to begin work on a signal at the intersection, for which the City of Coolidge had applied 18 months previously. Regardless of blame, the accident reminds us that the roads we drive on are as dangerous as any terrorist threats we may prepare for. This issue of EMS Magazine focuses on vehicle issues, with articles on defensive driving and vehicle maintenance. If you would like to make a donation to the Southwest Tammy Mundell Memorial Fund, go to www.azfcu.org/contribution.html.