Officials are looking at options for replacing the $90,000 ambulance that collided with a bull on U.S. Highway 59.
A Douglas County Fire & Medical official on Monday told the Douglas County Commission the size of the ambulance involved in a weekend collision with a bull may have prevented further injury to paramedics on board.
Deputy Chief Ted McFarlane said the ambulance involved in the accident was the county's newest and largest ambulance.
"There is some speculation that if it had been one of the smaller trucks there would have been more injury," McFarlane said.
The county purchased the 21,000-pound ambulance last year for $90,000. The smaller ambulances average about 12,000 pounds each.
"It's beat up," McFarlane said. "And structurally, it has some problems." He said insurance estimates should soon be available, and the service is looking at options to replace the ambulance.
"We will have a problem maintaining four on the street without it," McFarlane said.
The accident occurred just after 1:30 a.m. Saturday on U.S. Highway 59 nine miles south of Lawrence. Paramedics were transporting Orvil E. Fisher, 80, rural Baldwin, to Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Family members said Fisher called the ambulance because he was having trouble breathing. The call was not an emergency.
Fisher died at Columbia-Overland Park Regional Medical Center following the accident. Three paramedics in the ambulance, driver Shawn Belt, 23, Chester Englis, 23, and James Brown, 42, were treated and released at area hospitals. The paramedics were the only witnesses to the accident.
"(The paramedics) are all banged up, but they're doing well today," said Ted McFarlane, fire & medical deputy chief. The ambulance driver was wearing a seat belt; the two in the back with the patient were not.
McFarlane said a battalion chief told Fisher's family Sunday night about known details of the accident. The right side of the ambulance apparently struck the bull, causing the driver to lose control. The ambulance veered into a ditch and hit a post, which caused it to flip onto its top, he said.
After radioing for help, the paramedics began caring for Fisher and each other until other aid arrived. "The initial triage coding was such that we thought we had serious injuries," said McFarlane, who was among the responders to the accident. "We had Topeka and Kansas City helicopters in the air."
The Kansas Highway Patrol is continuing its investigation into the accident.
-- Selena Stevens' phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is selena
- More county commission news. Page 4B.