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Ambulance driver says she fell asleep before crash that killed patient

DUNKIRK - The ambulance driver whose patient died when the vehicle crashed Tuesday told investigators she fell asleep at the wheel, according to the State Police.

Investigators believe the woman may have fallen asleep, but they are still looking at other possible factors, including possible distracted driving, said Trooper James O'Callaghan, a State Police spokesman.

The driver, identified by police as Robin Morey, 49, of Erie, Pa., has been "extremely cooperative" in the investigation, O'Callaghan said. Investigators are awaiting lab results on whether the driver may have been intoxicated, though she showed no sign of intoxication at the scene, he said.

Arthur R. McArthur, 77, of Dunkirk, was being transported to a nursing home in Chautauqua County when the EmergyCare ambulance went off the road on Route 5 and drove into a ditch, striking a culvert. The crash happened at about 5:40 p.m. McArthur, who died at the scene, was being taken from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Erie.

Morey is in her second year as a paramedic with the company after spending several years as an emergency medical technician, said Todd Steele, EmergyCare's director of operations.

Morey was 10 hours into her 12-hour shift when the crash happened. Paramedics work seven out of every 14 days and Morey was working her second-straight day, Steele said. Tuesday was not an overly busy day in terms of workload, he added.

Morey told company officials she may have fallen asleep, Steele said, a slight distinction from what law enforcement authorities are saying she told them.

There is time during the crash "she can't account for," Steele said.

The Erie-based EmergyCare employs about 300 people and covers parts of seven counties in northwestern Pennsylvania. Its vehicles travel about 2 million miles per year, said Steele, who expressed sympathy for McArthur's family.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with them," he said.

Steele said this was the company's first fatal crash in its 33-year history.

Morey was treated and released from Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk after the crash, Steele said. Another EMT in the back of the ambulance was admitted to UPMC Hamot in Erie and released Wednesday, he said.

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