GEYSER - On Oct. 17, 2020, Pat Antonich and her crew from the Geyser Emergency Services (GES) responded to an accident on Highway 89 between Geyser and Raynesford.
Antonich was working on one woman who was in the ambulance when she saw a car coming straight for them.
"The road was slick and it was getting dark,” Antonich said. “We had people at both ends to block traffic and a guy slipped through. We don't know why he ignored the people on the east end.”
Several of her fellow EMTs, along with some firefighters and even other law enforcement personne,l were standing right behind the ambulance as it was about to be hit.
"I looked up, just as they shut the doors and saw him fishtail and kind of slid. Then all I could think about was the patient. She was upset already. All I could think about was shielding her. I didn't know if this vehicle was going to come through the back doors or what was going to happen," she said.
The car hit the ambulance and ended up in a ditch across the road. Everyone on the ground escaped injury, but only by seconds.
“They remember their feet were sliding, and the cop remembered they're not going to get out of the way in time."
Now the GES and everyone else on the ground are dealing with two accidents. With their ambulance out of commission, they called on Belt Volunteer Fire Department to come and transport the woman in the first accident.
Both scenes were cleared and everyone went home, but the story doesn't end there.
GES was now without an ambulance and had to rely on their EMS friends from surrounding communities to help them in any medical emergency.
Bruce Evans, the former fire chief and current EMT for Geyser, says their biggest challenge is the distance.
“Most of our ambulance calls run about three hours between dispatch and by the time we get home, just because it's an hour trip to Great Falls,” Evans said. “Waiting for another ambulance from Belt or Stafford, there's another half hour time. For a critical patient for us to get to that patient and be able to assess the patient, make a decision on transport is huge to do it quickly."
Knowing what a pinch they were in, they had to do something in order to be able to service the people of Geyser and surrounding areas.
Apgar Ambulance is based out of Kalispell and they build and trade all types of emergency vehicles, including ambulances.
Within two weeks Geyser had a loaner ambulance to park in their bay, which means ambulance services would be provided out of that area once again.
But now the challenge comes in replacing their original ambulance.
So far, they've raised about $40,000 of the at least $200,000 they need, just by calling around and asking for donations.
"We came here one night and started thinking of names. We split the lists up and people just started calling everyone. We have money that the county will kick in with, but we've always been a great fundraising community," Antonich said.
With COVID-19 still wreaking havoc on our communities, they're unable to hold traditional fundraisers like pancake breakfasts. So, they're now just relying on a good old-fashioned check in the mail.
A new ambulance could be available in just two months but without the funds to pay for it, they could be working with the loaner for quite some time. If you'd like to help you can mail a check to:
Geyser Emergency Services
c/o Fern Kaiser
Geyser, MT 59447
The GES is a 501C3 organization, so your donations are tax-deductible.
"We would appreciate any support we can get. Twenty dollars up to whatever you want to give. You know if we get 500 twenty-dollar donations that really makes a huge difference," said Evans. "As far as the community of Geyser and the people who have already donated, to be able to raise that kind of money in a couple of weeks is just unbelievable. The support is just huge."