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West Tenn. paramedic killed in I-40 crash leaves behind wife, children

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) - A West Tennessee paramedic who died in a crash in Nashville will be laid to rest this week.  

Thirty-six-year-old Zachary Pruitt was riding in the back of an ambulance when it crashed on Interstate 40 at Charlotte Pike Friday evening.  

Pruitt and the patient, 36-year-old Nyema Jackson, were both ejected and killed. 

"Zach was the guy anybody could talk to," said friend Michael Henges. "He had an incredible heart for patient care and his calling was to be a paramedic." 

Henges and Pruitt went to EMT school together and they both graduated in 2016.  

Henges went to work for First Call while Pruitt went on to paramedic school and was eventually hired by Medical Center EMS in West Tennessee.  

Henges was also in Nashville working Friday night and happened to drive by the crash scene. He was the Medical Center EMS logo and immediately thought of Pruitt.  

"It was awful. The unit had obviously been through a serious impact," he said. "I tried to call his phone and it went to voicemail. Of course, you have that fear and unfortunately, it turned out to be the case." 

Pruitt leaves behind two children, one with special needs, and a wife. He was also an Army veteran and a Purple Heart recipient.  

A GoFundMe has been set up to help his family.

According to Metro police, excessive speeds and wet conditions caused the crash. 

"It was not a night that you wanted to be out if you didn't have to be," said Henges. "It's very easy, especially in a box ambulance to lose control because they are top heavy." 

Henges doesn't blame the driver, 55-year-old Deborah Schichtel. Instead, said the emergency service community will help her through the rough road ahead. 

News 2 learned that ambulances in Tennessee are not allowed to surpass five miles-per-hour over the speed limit. It's unclear how fast this driver was going.  

The lights and sirens were not activated on the ambulance, but it's not required - it's up to the paramedics to decide when to activate lights and sirens on an ambulance. 

The driver's employer, West Tennessee Healthcare/Medical Center EMS, said she will not face disciplinary action.  

"Words will not express my deepest sympathies to the families of all who are impacted by this tragic event," said James Ross, President and CEO of West Tennessee Healthcare. "We pray for a speedy recovery for Deborah, and we stand with all of the families and staff members as we grieve the precious loss of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them today and will be in the days to come." 

A spokesperson for West Tennessee Healthcare says Schichtel has been released from the hospital.


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