Ohio paramedics recovering after fatal crash
Two South Central Ambulance District paramedics were injured after their ambulance was struck by another vehicle
By Brian Haytcher
GEAUGA COUNTY, Ohio — Two paramedics are recovering after another a crash that injured the pair and killed a patient being transported in the ambulance.
A South Central Ambulance District ambulance was struck by another vehicle on Route 528 on Sept. 26, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. William Maley Jr ., of Dorset, was being transported in the ambulance and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the OHP.
[PREVIOUSLY: Ohio medics injured, patient killed in ambulance crash]
SCAD Chief Shaun Buehner said Jesse Sopko, one of the two SCAD employees injured in the crash, was released from the hospital on Tuesday.
“He will be doing follow-up rehab weekly for the foreseeable future, that we know of,” Buehner said. “The driver [of the ambulance], who I’m not naming out of respect for his privacy, he is still undergoing some rehab as well for his injuries that he sustained.”
A benefit for the two paramedics will take place on Dec. 2, from 4:30 to 6:30, he said.
“We’re having a pasta dinner, donation at the door, with a Chinese auction ... at the Eagleville Bible Church,” Buehner said. “We are accepting donations of baskets for the auction.”
Buehner said the response has been amazing.
“Not only the district community, but the public safety community throughout the state of Ohio has been phenomenal, reaching out to us, making monetary donations, too, in the name of paramedics,” he said. “We couldn’t ask for a better community to support us during this tragedy.”
Buehner said the extensive support for a crowdfunding campaign for Sopko’s medical expenses was appreciated by the paramedic and his family.
“He’s expressed his gratitude to me several times, just knowing that people are supporting our department and him,” Buehner said.
The ambulance manufacturer SCAD uses heard about the crash the day it happened and reached out to them immediately, he said.
“We are expecting to receive the replacement ambulance in February of 2024, before that it was expected in 2025,” Buehner said. “We are grateful that our manufacturer took it upon themselves to move the delivery date up more than a year.”
SCAD took delivery of the ambulance that was wrecked in May, he said.
“When Braun Manufacturing, based out of Van Wert, and Penn Care Medical, which is based out of Niles, that’s our sales company, heard about it, they contacted me right away and said, ‘Don’t worry about the logistics of the ambulance, we’ll take care of it,’” Buehner said. “They put the wheels in motion to make sure that we had an ambulance as soon as possible. We couldn’t ask for a better company to work with when it comes to the friendship and professionalism between SCAD and our manufacturer and sales company.”
District staff have stepped up to make sure shifts are covered and ambulances are on the road to respond to calls, he said.
SCAD is down an ambulance and some equipment that needs replaced, but is working through it, Buehner said.
“We are able to cover our calls at this time, with the trucks that we have in service,” he said.
Buehner thanked the community for its support.
“It’s overwhelming how quickly our community rallied together in support of our district, as well as our first responders,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the first responders in northeast Ohio, as well as the rest of Ohio. We’ve had agencies as far as Cincinnati reach out to us in support.”
Jason Slepsky, 36, of Chardon, the driver whose vehicle struck the ambulance, was charged with one count of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of aggravated vehicular assault, and one count of operating a vehicle under the influence, according to court documents.
Bond was initially set at $500,00 cash or surety, then in early October, was modified to $250,000 cash or surety.
In mid-October, Slepsky’s bond was reduced again, to $25,000 or 10 percent, according to court records. Bail was posted for him the next day.
Since then, the only action taken in the case was a motion by Slepsky’s attorney to retain evidence in the case, specifically the vehicles involved in the crash.
The motion claims the vehicle is evidence, and would need to be inspected by an expert witness for Slepsky’s right to a fair trial.
The motion to preserve evidence was granted on Wednesday morning, but since a request has been made to have the ambulance released, the state is required to preserve it until at least Jan. 12, 2024, with the potential to extend it further if Slepsky’s legal team can justify it.