EMS provider found guilty of manslaughter in fatal ambulance crash

Witnesses said the ambulance did not have its sirens on, ran a red light and was going nearly 20 miles per hour over the speed limit

By Laura French

KING GEORGE COUNTY, Va. — An EMS provider who was driving an ambulance at the time of a fatal crash in 2018 was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Wednesday.

William Watson was driving a Westmoreland County Rescue Squad ambulance on Sept. 17, 2018 when he ran a red light, crashing into two other cars and killing 64-year-old Rita Davis, according to WTVR. Davis’ partner, Willie Frye, was critically injured in the crash.

Witnesses who testified at Watson’s trial said the rig’s lights were activated, but not its sirens. A Virginia State Police trooper said an examination of the rig’s black box revealed it was traveling at 64.1 miles per hour in a 45-mile-per-hour zone five seconds prior to the crash.

Westmoreland EMS Lt. Jamal Harvey and EMT Alice Sisson were in the ambulance, which was transporting a stroke patient, and were thrown from their seats due to the impact.

Sisson said when Harvey instructed Watson to drive, he “described being in a few different ambulance accidents in the past” and “joked, ‘Do we really want him to drive?’”

Watson testified he was not joking and that he had once driven an ambulance that got stuck in mud, causing a gas line to be severed and, in another case, rear-ended a vehicle while working in New Jersey which resulted in a three-day suspension. Sisson said after the crash, Watson admitted that he “should not have been driving.”

Watson’s defense team argued he was not driving recklessly, saying he was not familiar with the route and had been blinded by the sun before the crash.

A King George County judge delivered a guilty verdict for the charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving and running a red light. Watson is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on May 7, and faces up to 11 years in prison and a $250 fine.

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