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Paramedic Killed In Separate I-70 Accident

SMITHTON, Pa. — Greg Cominsky knew his late colleague Matthew Smelser since Smelser was 14. They shared a passion for emergency medicine.

“He was very work-oriented … really good with patient care,” Cominsky said. “And let me tell you — if you were injured, that’s the face you want to see.” Cominsky paused, then added: “He was that guy.”

At 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Smelser was doing his job – helping someone who’d been injured in a crash on Interstate 70 near Smithton, Pa. — when state police said another accident killed him. Smelser, 44, was a full-time paramedic supervisor from Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Services. He lived in Carroll Township.

State police officials from the Belle Vernon station said their investigation into those events is ongoing.

The loss of Smelser was devastating for the department where he’d worked since the mid-1990s, said Cominsky, a fellow supervisor.

“I don’t know how you’re going to replace him,” he said.

Tom Fronzaglio, a firefighter and former captain with the Donora Volunteer Volunteer Fire Company, agreed. He said they’d known each other for 10 or 15 years.

“I’ve known him outside of work as a friend, and he was a very well-respected paramedic, one of the best I’ve seen in my 25 years of being a fireman,” Fronzaglio said. “There’s no way they can replace him.”

Members of the Rostraver department had been dispatched to a wreck on the interstate before the crash that claimed Smelser’s life about a mile from the Smithton exit.

A press release from state police said the road was icy when a vehicle crashed into their ambulance, and a “commercial vehicle” struck and killed Smelser.

Smelser also worked part time in a similar role for UPMC.

“He was very well-respected among colleagues, staff and patients alike and will be fondly remembered for his commitment to serving others,” said Rick Pietzak, a spokesman for the health care system, in an email.

“We express our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues.”

Cominsky said he had a Connellsville-based ambulance company at the time he met Smelser, who was involved in a program that introduced youth to that line of work through the Boy Scouts. Smelser caught whatever bug makes someone love it.

“If you were down and out, he was the face you wanted to see,” Cominsky said. “He was good at what he did.”

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