CLEARWATER — A paramedic who helped rescue a critically injured Ireland Nugent this spring was killed Monday in a motorcycle crash in Clearwater, authorities said.
Officials said Christopher A. Jennings, 33, of Palm Harbor, was pronounced dead at a local hospital after the 4:30 p.m. crash at Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Keene Road.
In April, Jennings was one of the first paramedics on the scene of the amputation of 2-year-old Ireland, who lost part of her legs when her father accidentally ran over her with a lawn mower.
That night, Jennings said he sat with co-workers in a church parking lot, sobbing. Just a couple weeks ago, the tears threatened to overwhelm him again when he was reunited with his young patient, who now is walking with prosthetics.
"I'm not an emotional guy, but it's awesome to see her doing so well," he told reporters. "It's good closure for us."
Jennings had worked for Sunstar Paramedics in Pinellas County for four years, and was an assistant supervisor, said Rob Shaw, the city's public safety spokesman. Jennings also was a SWAT paramedic who worked with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, Shaw said.
"He was an outstanding employee," Rob Smith, a Sunstar spokesman, said in a statement late Monday. "He loved being a part of EMS. Chris will be missed."
In late May, Jennings and his colleagues took top honors at an inaugural EMS competition in Inverness that drew professionals from as far away as Miami and the Panhandle. A short article about their feats was published in the Tampa Bay Times Sunday.
Jennings got third place in the "Intubation Rodeo," which tested his skills in various emergency situations.
During the "rodeo," EMS professionals were required to deal with 25 emergency scenarios, including a helicopter crash, a shooting, someone trapped upside-down in a tight space, a baby stuck in a well and an icy water rescue. They were given three minutes or less to assess the situation and establish an airway in a manikin.
On Monday afternoon, Jennings was northbound on Keene Road when his 2008 Suzuki collided with a southbound vehicle that was waiting to make a left turn onto Gulf-to-Bay.
Witnesses told police that Jennings accelerated past traffic that had slowed for the red light at Gulf-to-Bay and struck the passenger side of a 2001 Chevrolet Suburban driven by Inez Ledford, 37, of Pinellas Park.
Jennings, who moved to the area from Georgia a few years ago, was pronounced dead at Morton Plant Hospital.
The crash was under investigation Monday night.