An employee of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company was killed while responding to a call Tuesday afternoon in the Emmorton area.
The weather is being cited as a major factor in his death, according to Rich Gardiner, spokesman for the Harford County Volunteer Fire & EMS Association.
Erik Steciak, 29, a paid paramedic with the Bel Air fire company since December 2011, who was also with West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department of Howard County, was hit by a utility vehicle while trying to reach a patient who had been injured in an earlier accident, Gardiner said.
"This is extremely difficult. It's an extremely difficult situation. We go in day-to-day in every incident, worried for each other in every incident. You don't know what we will encounter," Gardiner said. "We never hope for the worst, but when the worst occurs, it's a devastating feeling."
According to the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department, Mr. Steciak had recently been promoted to captain.
Bel Air firefighters and emergency medical personnel were called to the 300 block of Patterson Mill Road around 1:50 p.m. Tuesday for a report of a car that had run off the road and into an embankment. The patient was inside a nearby house, Gardiner said.
"Because of the extreme weather and driveway conditions," Gardiner said, fire personnel determined the best access to the patient, who was subsequently taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, was by four-wheel drive
Responders used the company's utility truck, a Chevy Silverado equipped with a snow plow, to maneuver the driveway. As the truck moved down the driveway, Gardiner said, it began to slide and, at some point, the Bel Air fire company employee was hit by the truck. He was treated at the scene then taken to University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air, where he died of his injuries, Gardiner said.
The Harford County Sheriff's Office is investigating what Gardiner said was a non-traffic related fatality.
"Indications point to weather being a major factor in this event," Gardiner said.
A critical incident stress management team was at the firehouse Tuesday evening to offer services to the members, and many were taking advantage of it.
There was an outpouring at the station Tuesday evening, he said.
"There are about 100 people there coming because they're concerned for their friends, their co-workers, their fellow firemen," Gardiner said.
The mood, he said, is somber and sad.
"Right now they're coming together as a family, that's what they do," he said. "That's what fire service is about. Something happens that's what they do, they come together. They want to be together with each other."
A statement was issued earlier Tuesday by the county: "On behalf of County Executive Barry Glassman and Director Edward Hopkins, the Harford County Department of Emergency Services expresses our sincere sympathy to the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company and the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Company of Howard County on the tragic loss of Paramedic Erik Steciak this afternoon. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to Paramedic Steciak's immediate family, fire service family and loved ones."
More details will be published on line at http://www.theaegis.com as they become available.