Two paramedics and two volunteer firefighters were injured when an ambulance carrying a dying patient collided with a sheriff’s patrol car on the north side of Columbus, police said.
Prior to the crash early Tuesday, the Columbus Regional Hospital ambulance had picked up Shirley Ann Harshbarger, 72, of the Driftwood Mobile Home Park near Edinburgh, who suffered a heart attack at her residence, Columbus Police Department spokesman Lt. Matt Myers said.
Since Harshbarger was not showing any vital signs when paramedics arrived, German Township volunteer firefighter Jeremy S. Bolduc, 30, agreed to drive the ambulance so two emergency medical technicians could concentrate on efforts to revive her, Myers said.
In addition, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin K. Arnholt, 37, agreed to give the ambulance an escort from Taylorsville to the hospital, Myers said.
Neither the police escort nor having a volunteer fireman drive an ambulance is uncommon in these types of life-threatening situations, Myers said.
With his emergency lights and siren turned on, Arnholt assumed that the ambulance driver would turn right from National Road, head south on Central Avenue and then east on 17th Street to the hospital, Myers said.
So at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, the deputy veered his car, which was eastbound on National, toward the middle of the highway and stopped at an angle where National intersects with Central, in an effort to prevent westbound traffic from turning left into the path of the ambulance, Myers said.
Unknown to Arnholt, Bolduc intended to continue east on National and make a right turn onto Herman Darlage Drive, utilizing both 25th Street and Hawcreek Avenue to get to the emergency room, Myers said.
As a result of the misunderstanding, the left front of the ambulance hit the passenger side of Arnholt’s patrol car, Myers said.
The deputy requested two other ambulances be sent to the scene. When investigating officer Kyle Young arrived, he saw that the paramedics were still attempting to revive Harshbarger, Myers said.
The cause of death for Harshbarger, who had been in ill health, was determined to be cardiac arrest, Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher said.
While Myers said the police report does not state whether Harshbarger was alive at the time of the collision, her obituary states she was pronounced dead at 2:18 a.m. in the emergency room — almost two hours after the accident.
The woman’s husband, Marvin B. Harshbarger, told first-responders he believes his wife died prior to the accident, Fisher said.
The paramedics who were trying to revive the Edinburgh woman sustained minor injuries.
Amia Hendry, 30, complained of elbow and arm pain, while Jerry Durham, 65, suffered cuts and bruises to his shoulders and arms, Myers said.
Bolduc complained of head and arm pain, while another German Township firefighter who was assisting the paramedics, Michael K. Chasten, 52, complained of head pain.
All four first-responders were treated in the emergency room and later released, Fisher said.
An autopsy was not performed on Harshbarger, and her body was released for burial, he said.