Halfmoon firefighter clings to life after accident
Weather, distraction blamed for tow truck backing over Ayotte
Updated 6:24 p.m.
CLIFTON PARK A longtime volunteer firefighter who was run over by a tow truck in the line of duty Tuesday remained in critical condition Wednesday.
State police said Tuesday’s heavy downpour was partially to blame for the accident that injured Allen Ayotte.
The 66-year-old Halfmoon man responded to a four-car accident Tuesday evening as a member of the West Crescent Fire Department. He was directing a tow truck that had arrived at the scene on the Exit 8 off ramp of the Northway when either he or the driver became distracted and the truck backed over him, said state police Sgt. John Phelps.
“The weather conditions at the time were not good,” he said. “It was pouring. It was a deluge. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.”
Ayotte yelled out when he was under the truck, and police believe that is why he wasn’t crushed further. Officials couldn’t detail the extent of his injuries, but confirmed he had a broken leg and possibly a fractured pelvis. He also may have sustained internal injuries to the lower or middle part of his body.
Ayotte was taken to Albany Medical Center, where he underwent surgery Tuesday night. Hospital officials could only describe his condition as critical the next day.
“The family and brothers and sisters of the West Crescent Fire District request your thoughts and prayers for firefighter Ayotte during this difficult time,” wrote Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman John Meehan and Fire Chief Bill Bryans in a news release issued Wednesday.
Ayotte joined the department in 1965, the year he graduated from Shenendehowa High School.
“He has held almost every position in the fire service here,” said Bryans. “These days he is training officers and is one of my public information officers, so he would be the one talking when something like this happens.”
First responders were on the scene because of a four-car accident caused by a drunk driver, police said. Gary H. Gerard, of South Lake Street in Albany, drove his vehicle into the rear of another while exiting Interstate 87, state police said. That accident caused a chain reaction involving two other vehicles.
The police investigation determined Gerard was drunk at the time, and he was charged with driving while intoxicated. No injuries were reported from the accident itself.
Phelps said police aren’t pursuing any further charges in relation to the injuries Ayotte sustained responding to the accident.
“It was a busy scene with three different tow companies,” said Phelps. “I can’t emphasize enough that these firefighters do a very important and dangerous job to say the least. And they’re volunteers. They’re invaluable to us ... especially in a place like the Northway. Directing traffic is a dangerous job.”