SMITHTON, Pa. — A Rostraver paramedic who was responding to a crash on Interstate 70 died Sunday morning after he and his ambulance were struck by a tractor-trailer, authorities said.
Matthew Smelser, a paramedic supervisor, responded about 5:30 a.m. to I-70 with Rostraver EMS. They were tending to one of the crash victims when their ambulance was struck by the tractor-trailer amid icy conditions and Smelser was killed.
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“It’s with great sorrow and pain that we announce the tragic loss of Paramedic Supervisor Matthew Smelser, he was killed this morning while attending to an injured person on Interstate 70. Please keep him, his family and all of us in your thoughts and prayers,” Rostraver West Newton Emergency Services posted on Facebook.
By Monday morning, a memorial with a photo of Smelser surrounded by his uniform, candles and flowers was outside the Rostraver West Newton Emergency Services building. The American flag had been lowered to half-staff.
Some brought bouquets, some brought food, but everyone seemed to have a story about Smelser.
Colleagues of Smelser -- the father of a young son and daughter -- spent decades as a first responder, dedicated to serving the community.
“He was the type of person where anything he did or was assigned a project, he just was on top of his game. If you were sick, if you were injured, he’s the face that you wanted to see,” Greg Cominsky, a paramedic supervisor, said.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday ordered the commonwealth flag to half-staff at all commonwealth facilities, public buildings and grounds in honor of Smelser.
“Matthew Smelser’s death is a tragic reminder of the risk taken by emergency personnel across the state each day to rescue Pennsylvanians in distress,” Wolf said in a statement. “We need to do our part to exercise caution while traveling, especially during winter weather or when approaching the scene of an accident.”
Police said the driver who struck Smelser will not be facing charges.
The initial crash to which Smelser responded happened on I-70 near the Smithton exit, shutting down the highway in both directions for the majority of the morning Sunday, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Officials said there were several people injured.