A paramedic responding to a crash early Sunday morning on Interstate 70 near the Smithton exit was struck by a vehicle and killed, the Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office confirmed.
The paramedic from Rostraver-West Newton Emergency Medical Service was identified on the ambulance service’s Facebook page this afternoon as Matt C. Smelser, 44, who was a paramedic supervisor.
State police in Belle Vernon said Smelser of Charleroi was responding to a crash about 5:30 a.m. west of the Smithton exit in South Huntingdon when he was fatally struck by a tractor-trailer rig after he got out of the ambulance.
The multi-vehicle crash initially closed the highway in both directions, authorities said. The westbound lanes reopened about 10 a.m., but the eastbound remained closed at noon.
“It’s with great sorrow and pain that we announce the tragic loss of Paramedic Supervisor Matthew Smelser, he was killed this morning while attending to an injured person on Interstate 70. Please keep him, his family and all of us in your thoughts and prayers,” the ambulance service Facebook post said.
No further information, including the name of the deceased, was currently being released, the coroner’s office said.
No one was immediately available for comment at the ambulance service.
Don Drew, a paramedic from Fayette County, said he has worked alongside Smelser at accident scenes for at least 15 years.
“I can tell you Matt was just a phenomenal person and a phenomenal paramedic. He cared about his patients and he cared about patient outcomes his entire career,” Drew said.
Drew said Smelser also prided himself on safety and looked out for his co-workers at accident scenes.
“He was Mr. Safety. If he saw someone who didn’t have proper safety equipment at a scene, he’d tell someone that the next time they better be wearing an EMS safety vest or whatever it was,” Drew said.
“I can tell you this is just heartbreaking for the entire EMS community in the region. That is how well-respected Matt was and he was the type of paramedic everyone strived to be,” Drew said.
Trooper Richard Nagy said that the ambulance was responding to a crash on the highway and weather is believed to be a contributing factor.
“EMS personnel were on the scene, tending to the victim of the crash. The weather conditions at the time caused the roadway to become icy and their ambulance was struck by another vehicle,” Nagy said.
Nagy said the paramedic was also struck by the tractor-trailer truck and was dead at the scene.
Emergency responders said traffic backed up as a result of the crash but was being detoured through the area.
The Yukon, Smithton, Rostraver Central and Turkeytown fire departments responded.