PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) – A firefighter responding to a crash in Palm Harbor was hit by a pickup truck and rushed to the hospital with several injuries Wednesday morning, according to fire officials. The driver of the pickup later died.
Law enforcement officials said a pickup truck came barreling towards 38-year-old Lt. Ashley White while she was responding to the scene of a different crash. White was in surgery for six hours yesterday to repair her leg and made it out in stable condition. She was alert and talking with family and the fire chief. Officials say it is one of many surgeries she’ll have over the next few days, including one on her arm.
Palm Harbor Fire Chief Scott Sanford will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. to brief the public on White’s condition, including updates from her trauma surgeon. The briefing will be held at Station 65 Palm Harbor Fire Rescue Administration.
A spokesperson for Palm Harbor Fire Rescue said the original crash, involving a blue Chevy and a teal sedan, happened just after 3:15 a.m. in the northbound lanes of US-19 near Innisbrook Drive.
“It was like a family member got hurt and I wanted to do whatever I could do as a community member to help,” said Erica Lynford, the director of Palm Harbor Parks and Recreation.
Palm Harbor Fire Rescue crews responded to the crash involving White and said she was hit “almost immediately after arriving” at the scene. She was outside of the fire truck when she was hit by a silver GMC Denali pickup truck, according to fire officials.
Florida Highway Patrol Sergeant Steve Gaskins said the pickup truck came barreling towards the scene of the crash, first slamming into two fire trucks before spinning out of control, striking White.
Neither of the people in the original fender bender crash were injured.
FHP said the pickup truck driver, a 26-year-old man from Ohio, was taken to AdventHealth North Pinellas where he later died.
The northbound lanes of US-19 were shut down near Innisbrook Lane for seven hours from 3 a.m. to 10 a.m. before opening back up.
Gaskins said anyone who sees a crash must move over and proceed with caution.
“You can get pulled over, ticketed. But more importantly, we don’t want you to get hurt, someone else to get hurt, and the emergency workers, they don’t want to get hurt as well,” he said.
He said what you do those split seconds after seeing a crash could save your life or someone else’s.
“If you see flashing lights consider that communication to you, the oncoming driver, that you need to pay attention, slow down, be prepared to stop,” he said.
“In the world, we live in if you watch, listen, hear…. we could all use a moment in Palm Harbor to all be together for one purpose outside our own lives. A purpose for the greater good and positivity, come together for something,” Lynford said.
Members of the community gathered in prayer Wednesday afternoon for the 38-year-old firefighter outside of the Palm Harbor Parks & Recreation – The Centre.
The community is now left clinging to hope, friends, and family.
“Palm Harbor Fire Department is our family,” Lynford said.
Donations for Lt. White can be dropped off at Station 65, located at 250 West Lake Road.
The North Pinellas Firefighters Charities organization opened an online fundraiser to help Lt. White recover.