CLEARWATER — As a Sunstar ambulance carrying an injured motorcyclist raced to Bayfront Medical Center on Tuesday morning, the unthinkable happened on the Bayside Bridge.
The ambulance's transmission failed, the engine stalled and the vehicle slowed to a standstill — right in the middle of the bridge.
The patient inside was Barbara Edwards, 59, who had just been seriously injured in a crash at the intersection of Keene Road and Drew Street.
Help was not far away. A Clearwater Fire Rescue vehicle was following the ambulance. Emergency workers hurriedly switched Edwards from one vehicle to the other. She arrived at Bayfront in St. Petersburg, and the ambulance was towed away for repairs.
Why was the Clearwater rescue truck following the ambulance to the hospital?
"We had fire medics inside the ambulance with the patient. If we're requested, it's normal for us to assist at the scene," said Clearwater public safety spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts. "And if our medics go with them to the hospital, then we've got to bring them back."
It was fortuitous that the rescue vehicle was so close behind, said Sunstar director of communications Stephen Glatstein. But there was another Sunstar ambulance six minutes away, he said, so the outcome would not have been catastrophic if the Clearwater vehicle had not been there.
Sunstar ambulances experience "critical failures" that incapacitate the vehicle less than 1 percent of the time on emergency calls, Glatstein said.
The original accident happened about 11:45 a.m. when Edwards, riding a motorcycle, sideswiped a Nissan pickup as she tried to merge into a lane on her left, Watts said.
Later Tuesday, Edwards was listed in good condition at Bayfront.
The pickup driver, Manuel Perez, 46, was not injured.
Martine Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4224.