Emergency vehicles in collisions

Tuesday, October 19, 1999

Fire engine on call rams ice cream truck; ambulance hits car

Simply put, it was a bad afternoon on the streets of San Francisco for vehicles on their way to emergencies. First, a fire engine racing to a car wreck Monday around 2 p.m. barreled into an ice cream truck. Just over an hour later, an ambulance answering a call hit a car.

The accidents left six people mildly injured, the ice cream truck turned on its side and the fire engine and ambulance badly damaged. There was no immediate word whether the ice cream survived. The first accident happened as the fire engine with its siren blaring and lights flashing, entered the intersection of California and Larkin streets at the same time as the ice cream truck, said Lt. Ed Campbell of the Fire Department.

The collision sent the ice cream truck, which had been northbound on Larkin, sliding along the street on its side. The fire engine had been westbound on California Street. Four firefighters and the ice cream truck driver suffered minor injuries. They were taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where they were treated for cuts and abrasions and released, said a nursing supervisor.

An investigation to determine fault is under way. It was unclear which vehicle had the green light, Campbell said. The fire engine had been responding to the scene of a vehicle accident at Sutter and Van Ness streets at the time of the accident. Other crews handled that scene, Campbell said. Just after 3:15 p.m., an ambulance with its sirens on struck a car at Powell and O'Farrell streets, Campbell said. A paramedic riding in the ambulance complained of minor rib pain and was taken to S.F. General, where he was treated and released, the nursing supervisor said.

There has been no determination of fault made for the collision, Campbell said. "It's part of the risk when we respond," Campbell said of the two accidents. "We try to use our best driving procedures ..... but sometimes things occur."