Paramedic Killed In Ambulance Crash Remembered As Community Hero

UPDATE 11/7/15 4:15 p.m.

We are learning more about the man considered a hero in his county, who died in an ambulance crash Friday night.

Rick Hartley, 63, was riding in the back of an ambulance on Highway 287 outside Springfield, Colorado just before 7 p.m. Friday, when State Patrol says the driver collided with a tractor. The force of impact pushed the ambulance into the opposite lane of traffic, then caused it to roll off the road, ending up on its top. Hartley suffered severe injuries, and died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

We're told Hartley taught a CPR class and offered it free to anyone in the community. He also organized the county-wide injury prevention program for school age-children and was a champion of suicide prevention and awareness.

Hartley founded the Springfield EMS Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the local ambulance service in fundraising and education.

He also served on the State Advisory Council on Emergency Medical Services for the state of Colorado and was a member of the Southeastern Colorado Regional Emergency Trauma Advisory Council.

Those who knew him and worked with him sent us these statements.

“Rick embodied the spirit of what EMS is meant to be: professionalism, compassion and a lot of hard work. A true hero if ever there was one, and a great mentor to me.” – Cherilyn England, EMT-I at SECH Ambulance Service

“Rick Hartley was our teacher, mentor, and friend. He was a man filled with deep compassion and strong love for helping others. Our lives will never be the same without Rick, and he will be so greatly missed every single day.” –Rachel Harmon, EMT-I at SECH Ambulance Service

“He was one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever known” –Esther England (EMT), worked with Rick more than 30 years

“Rick was a near perfect example of commitment, dedication, and service to his community. He lived to serve. He was an excellent boss and leader. Not perfect, but almost!” –LeRoy England (EMT), worked with Rick more than 30 years

“I’ve known Rick my whole life, and he was a driving force in my decision to become an EMT. He had this amazing ability to bring compassion and calm to the worst of situations and is an example I will always look up to.” Megan, EMT

“He influenced my life through work, but he also influenced my life through sports and his care for my kid” –Sherrie, Nurse (and mom to a student Rick coached)

“He was a great coach and always a positive influence” –Tim (Student)

“He did it for the community” –Mark, First Responder

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UPDATE 11/7/15 3:45 p.m.

The Medical Director for the Southeast Colorado Hospital EMS, Antonio Manalo, M.D., sent us the following statement Saturday afternoon.

It is with a heavy heart that I make this statement. The passing of Rick Hartley has left a massive void in our community. I’ve known Rick since I came to Springfield in 1977.
Rick began his career in EMS in the late 1980’s after attending one of my classes. I knew Rick would be a successful EMT based on his enthusiasm and passion. Rick soon advanced to the level of EMT-Intermediate and finally accomplishing his dream of becoming a Paramedic.
Rick took over as EMS Director for Southeast Colorado Hospital EMS in 1992. Rick’s hard work and dedication has been instrumental in establishing and continuing to provide an advanced level of pre-hospital care to the citizens of Baca County.
Rick’s passing has been detrimental to our organization. I’d like to thank Rick for all he’s done, all that has been accomplished in this service has been due to his selflessness and compassion. I’d like to give my condolences to Rick’s family in their time of grief and request their privacy be respected during this difficult time. The people of Baca County have lost a true hero who gave his lifelong service within and outside of the hospital.

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Previous story 11/7/15:

A hero who spent a lifetime caring for people as a first responder is how friends are remembering Rick Hartley, who was killed in a two-vehicle collision Friday night.

Hartley, 63, was riding in the back of an ambulance on Highway 287 outside Springfield, Colorado just before 7 p.m. when State Patrol says the driver collided with a tractor. The force of impact pushed the ambulance into the opposite lane of traffic, then caused it to roll off the road, ending up on its top. Hartley suffered severe injuries, and died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

James Wyatt, 96, of Springfield, was riding in the back of the ambulance with Hartley, and only suffered minor injuries. Larry Miller, 74, of Springfield, who was driving the ambulance, sustained minor injuries as well.

The driver of the tractor, 21-year-old Caleb Yocam of Two Buttes, Colo., was also not seriously injured.

Hartley was a pillar of the community, friends told 11 News. According to his LinkedIn page, he dedicated more than 32 years of his life to serving others, working as a paramedic with Southeast Colorado Hospital Ambulance Service (SCHAS). Hartley was the SCHAS director at the time of his death.

Hartley was also the coach of Springfield High School's boys track team. Springfield won the 1A state track meet last May.

"He was the ambulance guy since I can remember," one friend, who asked to remain anonymous, told 11 News. "He has helped young and old, very professional when he had a patient, just went out of his way to make them feel calm and safe.

"There are just so many wonderful things about Rick Hartley that it's too much to mention...in our county [he's] considered a hero."

The friend said the fact that Hartley died while helping someone was not lost on her.

"I knew him since the second grade. He was just a man who cares. The most important thing in our field is caring about other people. Rick did that," said Harold Self, Baca County's director of emergency management.

Troopers are still investigating the cause of the crash. State Patrol says both vehicles were traveling northbound when they collided.