Paramedic keeps certification despite fatal crash
Ambulance service director and family of fallen co-worker lend support
The Carroll County paramedic who drove an ambulance two years ago when it crashed and killed a patient and fellow paramedic will keep his job under an agreement with the Iowa Department of Public Health, which had threatened to revoke his certification.
Robert Genzen, 49, of Manning, struck the back of a semitrailer truck in May 2010 on U.S. Highway 30 near Beaver — about 40 miles east of Carroll — in a botched, high-speed pass as he and two other paramedics transported a patient to a Des Moines hospital from Carroll.
The patient, Norbert Hoffman, 75, and paramedic Sheryl Stoolman, 53, died in the crash. Genzen and paramedic Wendy Baker were injured.
Genzen was convicted of two traffic charges — failure to use caution and passing too near an intersection — in December 2010. The Department of Public Health had planned to revoke Genzen’s paramedic certification but delayed the revocation after Genzen appealed his convictions.
Genzen eventually appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court in June, but the high court denied his request to review the convictions.
In August, Genzen struck a deal with the state health department in which his permission to drive an ambulance with a patient inside is suspended for six months, but he can otherwise work as a paramedic. The agreement says he must attend a safety class for emergency vehicle drivers.
The suspension ends Feb. 28, 2013, after which Genzen will serve two years of probation and his response to all emergency medical calls must be reviewed, among other requirements.
Bill Fish, director of Carroll County Ambulance Service, who has maintained that Genzen is his best paramedic, is glad Genzen will keep his certification but is displeased with the suspension. Genzen returned to work at the ambulance service after he recovered from his injuries from the crash.
“For about 1 1/2 years he was driving as a primary provider in all roles. He was doing all of it,” Fish said. “And now this six months’ silliness of not driving.
“All of this came about because of the very inadequate highway patrol report, which was full of falsehoods. ... The report made it look as though he was guilty, when he wasn’t.”
Genzen drove at up to 90 mph on the two-lane Highway 30 as he approached a truck that had slowed to turn to Beaver.
Evidence presented in court showed that the truck’s driver pulled partially into the oncoming lane of traffic before the turn but swerved back when he saw the ambulance approach. Genzen also swerved from the oncoming lane of traffic to the right and said he had planned to pass the truck on the right but crashed.
The ambulance was traveling at 85 mph five seconds before the crash and slowed to 58 mph about one second before the crash, according to a device in the vehicle that recorded its speed.
Dan Stoolman, husband of the paramedic who died in the crash, declined to comment on Genzen’s suspension but said, “I don’t have any ill feelings about Bob.”
Genzen has declined to be interviewed by the Daily Times Herald. Fish said Genzen prefers not to discuss the situation publicly because he wants to move on with life and his job, but that it’s been difficult because of the court cases and appeals.
“It’s affected him. It’s affected everyone,” Fish said. “But he’s doing quite well. He’s got tons of support.”
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