Joshua D. Opperman, 41, of St. Louis, driver of an Owensville Area Ambulance District rig, was flown by Lifeline Helicopter Service to Mercy Hospital in Creve Couer with serious injuries following a …
Joshua D. Opperman, 41, of St. Louis, driver of an Owensville Area Ambulance District rig, was flown by Lifeline Helicopter Service to Mercy Hospital in Creve Couer with serious injuries following a head-on crash at 8 p.m. Saturday on U.S. Highway 50, two-tenths of a mile east of Osage County Road 822.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol filed by Trooper Brian R. Lange, the crash occurred when Benjamin R. Steinbeck, 19, of Linn, attempted to pass a group of vehicles while traveling eastbound in a 2003 Mercury Sable. He cut back in on the line of traffic he had been attempting to pass, and clipped the rear end of a 2013 Dodge Journey driven by Amber Rose, 32, of Belle.
As a result of that collision, Rose’s car overturned into the path of a westbound 2019 Ford E-450 ambulance driven by Opperman, a paramedic. The car’s rear end struck the ambulance’s front end and driver’s side door. The impact punctured the front corner of the ambulance’s box shell.
Both vehicles traveled off the roadway into a group of trees.
“As the first vehicle was making his pass, the ambulance popped over a hillcrest,” said the Patrol’s Lange on Tuesday. “He was trying to cram himself into the line. He hit the woman’s car and she started rotating and turned over on her top.”
Lange said Opperman appears to have done everything he could to avoid the crash straight on as he veered right. “The paramedic driving took the whole brunt of the crash,” said Lange. “It’s very unfortunate.”
The ambulance crew was not transporting a patient at the time but had been traveling to Jefferson City to conduct a patient transfer.
An occupant in the ambulance, Brett W. Holtmeyer, a 36-year-old paramedic from Owensville, was transported by Osage Ambulance District to University Hospital in Columbia with moderate injuries. He was released from the hospital on Sunday and is recovering at home. He was a front-seat passenger. Opperman remained hospitalized Tuesday after reportedly undergoing orthopedic surgery on Monday.
Steinbeck’s vehicle left the south side of the road, and struck a fence and a group of trees. He was shaken up but unhurt in the accident, according to law enforcement at the scene. He was issued a citation alleging careless and imprudent driving — the more severe charge of several which could have been filed against him, according to the Patrol’s Lange.
“Based off what we learned, encompassing everything, we always go to the greater of the possible charges,” said Lange.
Lange said there were no signs of drug or alcohol impairment by the teenager who caused the crash.
All three drivers were wearing a seatbelt, according to the MSHP report.
Volunteers from the Owensville Fire Department’s Mt. Sterling and Owensville stations responded to find a car upside down into an ambulance and another off the side of the road in a field. Osage Ambulance personnel were tending to patients in the crash as firemen needed almost 20 minutes to free Opperman from his seat.
Nick Demos, a passenger in the car driven by his wife, described the incident in a Facebook post with someone he had tagged.
“…this is what happens when a young kid in a hurry puts his want to hurry above all the lives around him!” Demos wrote on the social media site. “There was a semi driving slow (about 40 MPH) on Hwy 50 and a car between the semi and us. There was at least one car behind us, then was the young kid’s car. He tried to pass the whole line of us. He got in to the other lane and gunned it. An ambulance was coming the other direction, kid tried to swerve back in to our lane between us and the car behind us, clipped us and basically pit maneuvered us into a roll into the ambulance.”
Pictures accompanying the couple’s post showed each received numerous lacerations and abrasions to arms, legs, and to his head. They had sought their own medical treatment so his name was not included in the crash report.
Spare Union and Osage County ambulances have each been on loan since the weekend to help provide coverage for the Owensville district until a replacement unit can be found. A new ambulance prices out at around $200,000 without life support and transport equipment.
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