An ambulance crew tried in vain early Monday to save the life of a woman critically injured in a Fairmont City car crash -- only to have their emergency vehicle stolen outside the hospital as they rushed her into the emergency room.
According to police reports, at about 1:50 a.m. Karemon M. Lederer, 24, of East. St. Louis and his female passenger Kristen M. Treat, 31, of St. Louis were traveling in a white Pontiac Grand Prix that struck a bridge support pier on Illinois 3 near Plank Road in Fairmont City.
Treat was thrown from the vehicle while Lederer was trapped and had to be cut out by firefighters. Passers by comforted Treat until paramedics arrived to rush her to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. She died about an hour later, shortly after arriving at the hospital.
The ambulance, owned by Sparta-based MedStar Ambulance, was idling outside the hospital shortly before 3 a.m. when it was taken. It later was recovered in East St. Louis.
"They were transporting the woman who was, unfortunately, very badly injured in a crash in Fairmont City," MedStar Ambulance St. Clair County Operations Manager Timothy Brown said. "She was in such critical condition that they needed to get her in the ER right away so the crew didn't follow procedures to secure the truck. A few minutes later someone came in the ER and told the crew that someone just took their ambulance."
It took about 30 minutes to get Lederer out of the wrecked car. He was taken to a St. Louis hospital where police said he is in stable condition.
The ambulance was found in East St. Louis on 15th Street a short time after it was taken. Brown said a new ambulance costs about $230,000 and carries about $175,000 worth of equipment. Nothing on board the MedStar ambulance was damaged or stolen.
"It appears someone just needed a ride home," Brown said. "They laid the keys on the driver's seat and left it just the way they found it."
Brown said the ambulance crew won't face punishment for not securing their vehicle.
"There is a lock mode where the truck can be left in idle but it can't be driven, Brown said. "It's understandable because of the situation that they didn't follow that procedure. It's kind of hard to fault the guys where their primary concern is this lady's health. They've been counseled. We're just happy we got our truck back."
St. Louis police and Barnes-Jewish Hospital security on Monday were going over surveillance footage to see whether they could determine who stole the ambulance.
Fairmont City police said the accident is under investigation. They are interested in talking with the driver of a tan or brown Ford F-150 pick-up truck believed to be between a 2004-08 model. He was a white male about 6 feet tall, roughly 200 pounds and about 30 years old.
The man told bystanders he had witnessed the crash but then he left before police arrived.
Anyone with information about the witness is asked to call Fairmont City police at 874-6100.
Contact Reporter Scott Wuerz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2626.