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Medical Responder Killed in Ambulance Crash En Route to Scene

Medical Responder Killed in Ambulance Crash En Route to Scene

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San Diego Union Tribune via YellowBrix

April 04, 2010

SAN DIEGO — Hours before he was fatally struck by a car while setting up flares around a highway traffic accident, emergency medical technician Esteban Bahena made this post to his Facebook account:

“Just transported a patient coming off a jet plane. Love my job.”

Bahena, 24, died about 8:30 a.m. Thursday after getting hit on state Route 163 south of Washington Street.

His midnight post on Facebook Wednesday was his last, said Reema Makani, spokeswoman for San Diego Medical Services, where Bahena had worked as an EMT since August 2008.

Makani said the company’s employees are like a tightknit family, and “we’re all reeling around here.”

Bahena was single and lived with two sisters in San Diego.

“He was just so nice, kind, and respectful,” Makani said.

The company message board, she said, “is exploding with people just so saddened by his loss.”

Bahena was a passenger in the ambulance with fellow EMT Paul Santos, 20, of Chula Vista. They were heading back to company headquarters in Kearny Mesa about 7 a.m. on state Route 163 in Hillcrest. They saw a one-car accident on the shoulder and pulled over, said Maurice Luque, spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

A woman in a 1999 Mustang had struck a concrete wall on the right shoulder, Luque said.

After pulling over, they noticed another accident in front of the Mustang involving a Dodge Ram pickup truck and a Toyota Scion. It was raining at the time, and a California Highway Patrol officer said that may have contributed to both accidents.

Santos got out of the ambulance and went to check on the drivers of the two-vehicle accident. Neither requested to be transported.

Bahena checked on the woman driver in the Mustang and then began to put out flares to warn approaching traffic of the accidents. He was struck by a silver Dodge Sebring driven by a 55-year-old San Diego woman.

The Sebring then hit the rear of the Mustang, driven by a 25-year-old woman from Escondido. Both vehicles traveled across the freeway lanes and came to rest against the Dodge pickup, which was in the center divide.

A fire department crew fresh from a nearby call arrived moments later and began to render aid. Bahena was taken in his own ambulance to a hospital where he died, Luque said.

The woman driving the car that hit him was injured and is expected to recover. Drugs and alcohol were not a factor, Luque said.

Luque said that the California Highway Patrol is still investigating the accidents, and anyone with information is asked to call the CHP at (619) 220-5492.

Makani at San Diego Medical Services said it was the first fatality since the company formed a joint public/private partnership with the city of San Diego 13 years ago to provide emergency services.

Employees of the company, the largest ambulance provider in the county, are “used to dealing with death on a pretty regular basis,” Makani said. “But when it’s so close to home, it’s so hard.”