When a Shawnee County ambulance crew responded to a fatal wreck Monday night east of Topeka, the last thing they expected to find was the body of a co-worker.
Paramedic Ryan Ostendorf had left his home in Lawrence and was driving to Topeka when he was killed in a head-on collision. The accident occurred about 8:20 p.m. on U.S. Highway 40 near Shawnee Heights Road.
Ostendorf had worked at American Medical Response ambulance service for five years. That night he would have started his shift at 9 p.m.
"We see this kind of thing all the time," said Capt. Steve Guyle, field supervisor with the ambulance service. "But when it strikes someone you know and work with, it strikes too close to home."
Ostendorf, 28, was working part-time at American Medical Response while attending Kansas University, where he was a senior majoring in biology. He wanted to go on to medical school and become a physician, Guyle said.
Ostendorf had a bright future, Guyle said.
"He was an outstanding paramedic who had the trust and confidence of the local physicians and the trust and confidence of the management staff and employees," he said. "He was an extraordinary individual."
According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, Ostendorf was driving a Jeep Cherokee west on U.S. 40 when he was struck head-on by a Cadillac Escalade traveling east in the westbound lane. The driver, Victor Antua, 28, thought to be from Topeka, and two passengers were injured. He was taken to St. Francis Via Christi hospital in Wichita. His condition was not known Thursday.
Troopers continue to investigate the accident, including whether alcohol was a contributing factor, KHP spokesman Lt. John Eichkorn said. When the investigation is complete, a report will be sent to the Shawnee County District Attorney for review, he said.
Ambulance crew members responding to the accident included emergency medical technician Mike Cox, Ostendorf's roommate, Guyle said. Cox has received some time off and other assistance, Guyle said.
The accident also devastated other crew members and shocked others who knew Ostendorf, including many with fire and law enforcement agencies as well as medical personnel at Topeka hospitals, Guyle said.
"We're kind of the thread that interweaves through all these agencies and you get sort of attached," he said. "He touched so many lives. He will be greatly missed."
Ambulance service employees and Ostendorf's family in Nebraska are receiving counseling and other assistance.
Funeral services will be Saturday in Gothenburg, Neb. American Medical Response plans to send a caravan of ambulances and several employees. Other agencies also may send representatives. A memorial service will be at 2:45 p.m. Monday in Grace Cathedral at Eighth and Polk streets in Topeka, Guyle said.