The fire truck, with four firefighters inside, was rushing to a blaze. The paramedic truck, with three firefighters inside, was heading to the hospital with two young children and their grandmother.
The two red emergency vehicles, lights flashing and sirens blaring, crossed paths near Miami’s hospital district.
Neither stopped for the other, and the resulting collision at Northwest 12th Avenue and 14th Street, injured 12 people, flipped the fire truck and sent mangled metal and glass shards gushing into the intersection.
Among the injured: seven Miami firefighters, and the three passengers in the paramedic truck, and two people in a car clipped by the spinning wreckage.
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“It was complete chaos in the beginning,” said Melissa Perry, who was in a trolley and saw the fire truck pass and then heard a loud bang. “There were a lot of police and rescue trucks coming to help.”
Other firefighters rushed to the scene to tend to their own, along with the civilians. People came from nearby Jackson Memorial Hospital and the University of Miami Hospital and other buildings to see what was going on.
“Oh, my God. It was the loudest thing I have ever heard,’’ said Sally Matson on Coral Gables, who witnessed the crash. “I thought it was a machine with grinding parts. I never heard a crash like that before.’’
Luckily, the injuries were not life-threatening, Miami Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Pete Gomez said. But you wouldn’t know it from the vehicles, which looked like they careened through a movie stunt scene.
The force of the crash was so strong that the fire truck spun 360 degrees, hit a curb and flipped on its side, Gomez said.
The rescue truck’s front was sheared off, its windshield bashed in.
“When you have a 40,000-pound truck flip on its side, and no one is seriously hurt, I’d say that’s a pretty lucky day,” Gomez said.
He credits the way the trucks are built and the safety mechanisms inside — including seatbelts for each person — for preventing more serious injuries.
The crash happened near the Jackson Memorial Hospital complex, as both vehicles, Rescue No. 25 and Engine No. 5 were rushing on separate calls. Both vehicles came from Station 5, 1200 NW 20th St.
The paramedic truck was transporting the two children and their grandmother to Jackson Memorial Hospital. They were heading east on Northwest 14th Street. It wasn’t clear why they were being taken to the hospital.
The fire truck was headed south on Northwest 12th Avenue en route to a fire call at 800 NW 13th Ave.
When the fire truck spun, it hit an orange Pontiac G6, which had at least two people inside, smashing the hood.
The paramedic truck was towed before 5 p.m. A crane helped lift it off the road, although pieces of the truck’s front end remained roadside.
The fire truck remained on its side well into rush hour as a crane went to work lifting it onto a tow truck after 5 p.m. Getting it upright and on a tow truck took more time.
The busy intersection was shut down for hours. Many people had to find new routes to get to their cars or to public transportation.
Miami police spokeswoman Frederica Burden said the department is investigating the cause of the crash and who was at fault.
Gomez said the department’s policy is for the driver of an emergency vehicle to “follow the rules of the road.”
Though they are allowed to go through red lights, drivers have to make sure the path is clear, Gomez said.
He said it is up to the police department to determine who is at fault.
In his 30-year career with the city of Miami, Gomez said he has never seen two emergency vehicles involved in a crash — and such a violent one.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “We are just happy it wasn’t worse.”