PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Palm Harbor Fire Rescue said 38-year-old Lieutenant Ashley White was severely injured after she was hit by a pickup truck on Wednesday while responding to an early morning crash on U.S. 19. around 3:19 a.m.
Officials said Lt. White was hit almost immediately after arriving at the scene. Several other firefighter crews were dispatched and immediately began working on the injured firefighter.
Lt. White, who has a young daughter and is married to a Clearwater Firefighter, was taken to Bayfront Hospital for multiple injuries and she spent most of the afternoon in surgery Wednesday.
Wednesday night, Palm Harbor Fire Rescue officials said Lt. White made it out of surgery and is doing OK.
"After 6 hours of surgery to repair her left leg we are happy to report that Lt. White has made it out of surgery and is in stable condition. This is one of many surgeries that will continue over the next few days," Palm Harbor Fire Rescue officials said.
The driver of the pick-up, a 26-year-old man from Ohio, was taken to Advent Health North Pinellas where Palm Harbor Fire Rescue said he was pronounced dead. Troopers said the man was traveling at a high rate of speed.
According to FHP, the driver of the pickup first hit the right side of two fire trucks that were blocking off the intersection of US-19 and Innisbrook Drive. The driver then continued on to hit Lt. White while she was near the two sedans involved in the initial crash. After hitting the lieutenant, the truck rotated and hit a fire hydrant.
Palm Harbor Fire Rescue said the two drivers involved in the initial crash had minor injuries.
All northbound lanes of U.S. 19 were closed for several hours at Innisbrook Drive. The lanes reopened at 9:45 a.m.
"This morning we responded to an otherwise routine vehicle crash. In a tragic turn of events one of our own, went from being the rescuer to needing to be rescued. Despite taking all of the appropriate safety measures Lt. Ashley White was struck by a vehicle at an extremely high rate of speed. Our firefighters immediately started rendering life-saving care to both Lt. White and the driver of the vehicle. I couldn't be more proud of our members for the way they handled the situation. I am very appreciative of the communities outpouring of support for Lt. White and all of our members. On behalf of Palm Harbor Fire Rescue I'd like to thank all our neighboring Fire Departments, Eastlake, Oldsmar, Clearwater, Sunstar Paramedics, the FHP, Pinellas County Sheriffs office, Joes Towing, Days, and Speedway Gas station for their assistance and generosity during this time."
The North Pinellas Firefighters Charities organization has opened a GoFundMe page for Lt. White. If anyone would like to donate, click here.
Other donations can be taken to Palm Harbor Fire Rescue Station 65 on West Lake Road.
Palm Harbor Fire Commissioner Kelli Snow said her heart is shattered as she worries about Lt. White.
“I see her at all our events we have in the community. She’s very involved in Palm Harbor. She has a family and my heart goes out to them because I can’t even imagine what they’re going through right now.”
Snow, alongside Erica Lynford of the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency, organized a prayer vigil for Lt. White Wednesday evening.
"Whether you pray or you don’t pray, you can certainly think and offer up some positive thoughts and prayers for this entire family and our community because this one hurts," Lynford added.
Investigators are all too familiar with the intersection of US-19 and Innisbrook. They investigated another crash at the same intersection on Tuesday, and yet another collision forced investigators to close down lanes less than two weeks ago on September 11.
FDOT told ABC Action News the area is planned to have overpasses in the future.
Community leaders said it’s another reminder of the danger along one of the most traveled roads in Pinellas County.
“As a matter of fact, we had a big billboard in 2019 addressing that issue that people don’t move over when they see emergency vehicles on the road and it’s tragic what can happen," Snow said.
Palm Harbor Fire Rescue shared a link for a GoFundMe account for Lt. White, it can be found here.