Patient, Paramedic Die in Ambulance Rollover on I-70

CAMBRIDGE – A Wheeling man and a paramedic died Saturday morning when an ambulance lost control, went off Interstate 70 near Cambridge and overturned multiple times.

Dennis Calvert, 64, a longtime employee of Chris Miller Furniture in Wheeling, died Saturday morning in the single-vehicle crash, which occurred just after 2 a.m. Saturday during “a significant weather event in Guernsey County,” according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. There were icy conditions in Cambridge this morning, and this crash was followed by numerous accidents throughout the day, a dispatcher said.

Miller’s death came as a shock to his boss, who called him “a faithful employee with a heart of gold, (who) would give you his last dime,” as she held back tears.

“We will miss him. He was a salesman, and a very good one at that,” said Judy Miller, owner and president of Chris Miller Furniture, where Calvert worked since 1985.”

Calvert, a resident of Sixth Street in Wheeling, was the patient in the Tri-State Ambulance crash that killed him and paramedic Charles McMahan, 39, of New Matamoras, Ohio. McMahan was with Calvert in the patient care area of the ambulance, according to a news release from the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Lt. J.E. Tracy.

“A 2008 Econoline Ambulance, registered to Tri-State Ambulance, was transporting a patient westbound on Interstate 70 near milepost 176,” Lt. J.E. Tracy said in the release. “Evidence at the scene showed that the ambulance lost control, drove off the left edge of Interstate 70, and overturned multiple times”

Three other emergency personnel in the ambulance had minor injuries, according to the release. Injured were passenger Jennifer Rothwell, 32, of Wheeling; the driver, Crystal Brown, 33, of Proctor; and passenger Randi Watson, 37, of Glen Easton. They were treated at Southeastern Ohio Regional Medical Center.

For the past year and a half or so, Calvert had been fighting cancer, and had been going to Columbus for some treatment, Miller said.

More recently, Calvert worked part-time at the store, but had worked there since 1985, with the exception of about five years when he operated his own businesses, including the Hallmark Cards store in downtown Wheeling, and a cafe near the McLure Hotel, Miller said. He returned to Chris Miller Furniture in January 2009. Before working at Chris Miller, Calvert worked at Stone & Thomas, including in Charleston, she said.

He was a 1970 graduate of Wheeling High School, and also worked as a chemical dependency tech at Miracles Happen Rehab on the weekends, and occasionally during the week, Miller said.

“Dennis just had a heart of gold for everyone,” she said, noting he would volunteer a lot during his free time, especially at The Lazarus House, a transitional home for recovering addicts, where he did a lot of cooking for dinners, and volunteered at fundraisers.

Calvert has two brothers, including Brian Calvert in Wheeling, and a sister who resides in Florida, Miller said.

The Saturday morning crash is still under investigation. A final report will be forwarded to the Guernsey County Prosecutor’s Office for review.

Staci Trudo, vice president of quality and risk at OVMC and East Ohio Regional Hospital, said Calvert had left OVMC in the ambulance early Saturday morning.

“The hospital and Tri-State Ambulance are devastated by this event and our deepest sympathy goes out to both the paramedic, who was an amazing person, and the patient,” she said.

OVMC is offering counseling and other support to those affected, she said.

“The ambulance, when they left here, there were no issues,” Trudo said. “They had checked the weather and everything was fine. In Cambridge, they hit some bad weather. The driver was doing a good job. In Cambridge, they got to a bridge — that’s my understanding — and they slid.”

Trudo said the hospital is waiting for a report from the patrol that will likely provide more information.

Meanwhile, the hospital is treating patients as usual, although icy conditions Saturday mean that there have been more patients with injuries from slipping.

“There are a lot of people going out and slipping and falling when they are trying to get their sidewalks cleared off,” she said, noting that they had seen about 10-15 of those patients by 1 p.m. Saturday.

Meteorologist Rodney Smith of the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh said East Ohio and the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia experienced as much as a quarter-inch of freezing rain from 2-4 a.m. Saturday, with freezing rain starting a little earlier in Ohio.

That’s an unusually thick amount of ice, he said, noting that in this case, the cold was in the area longer than usual. It was expected, and that’s why the NWS issued a freezing rain advisory at 5:50 p.m. Friday that was in effect from 10 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday, Smith said.

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