Mercy Flight helps save lives during a fatal collision
On the warm, sunny day of June 17, shortly after noon near the corner of Freedom and McMurray roads in the town of Freedom, State Police in Machias responded to a head-on collision. Mercy Flight out of Olean General Hospital was one of three helicopters called to assist, and paramedic Dan Hankey was the first to land.
Months after the accident, a makeshift memorial remains with holes in the asphalt and debris scattered at the scene.
What you need to know
- The American Red Cross honors people who help others in need
- Flight crews are being honored for their help saving lives during a fatal car crash at Freedom
- Three people died in the accident while others were rescued by the plane crew
“The scene was very chaotic,” Hanke said. “The cars were unrecognizable.” “There were a lot of fire department personnel. There were police officers moving around frantically doing their job the best they could to try to save these people’s lives.”
Troopers say a 21-year-old man driving a Dodge Ram truck crossed the center line and collided with an oncoming Ford Focus driven by his sister. Hankey eventually took her to Erie County Medical Center, where she later died. Two of her three female passengers, ages 6 and 17, died at the scene.
The third passenger, a 4-year-old girl, survived after being airlifted to Oishei Children’s Hospital by Josh Reformat, the flight’s paramedic pilot out of Buffalo, who was next to the landing at the scene.
“(It was) very chaotic (and) very chaotic,” Reformat said. “The place we landed was kind of far away. We just saw a bunch of cars on the side of the road. It looked like a bomb had gone off.”
Eric Parkey flew in from Batavia and was the last to land. He treated a 19-year-old passenger in the truck and transported him to Erie County Medical Center. He survived, as did the 21-year-old driver of that truck, and was treated locally and then released.
“We clearly noticed the vehicles involved in the accident in the middle of the accident scene, and it looked very catastrophic from the air,” Parkey said.
The three paramedics appreciate the Red Cross’s recognition of a profession that is often emotionally draining and physically demanding.
“I don’t know if I feel like a hero. I feel like someone who has the knowledge to help people when they’re in need,” Parkey said. “And I feel good knowing that we can provide this type of critical care.”
“Because that’s what we do,” Parkey said. “It’s our job. This is what we train to do. This is what we love to do. This is what we are here for.”
Hanke recently met with the others, and said he hopes this recognition sparks interest in others to help save lives and meet the growing need.
“I try to hope that good will come out of every tragedy,” Hankey said. “I hope you come out of this tragedy that happened at Freedom, and I hope our actions and service to the community will raise awareness of what emergency services and emergency health care do.”
In late September, troopers reported that the truck driver, Evan Klink, was facing multiple charges, including three counts of second-degree murder, one count of aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter and vehicular assault.
(Tags for translation) New York State