By Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily
Rawlins Police Department Officer Amber Yardley is thankful she didn’t get the call all first responders dread – one of their own is hurt or killed.
Yardley wasn’t on duty early morning Wednesday when a semitrailer plowed into an ambulance with a pair of Carbon County EMTs already responding to a crash at milepost 197 of westbound Interstate 80.
“I got lucky and happened not to be working that night, but my coworkers were the ones to respond out there,” she said.
What Yardley’s colleagues found was a nightmare scenario.
Carbon County Emergency Medical Services EMTs Tyeler Harris, 29, of Saratoga, and Tiffany Greutzmacher, of Rawlins, were attending to crash victims when a semitrailer smashed into the original crash scene.
Harris was killed and Greutzmacher critically hurt.
‘This Is What We Do’
Harris leaves behind a wife and three young children, while Greutzmacher clings to life.
“We as law enforcement officers and first responders, this is what we do,” Yardley told Cowboy State Daily. “We have to prepare ourselves for responding (to calls involving friends and colleagues).
“Every medical call and car accident, we really work together, and (this crash) really shook this community.”
‘Super, Duper Close’
For Yardley, Gruetzmacher is both a first responder colleague and her best friend.
“Tiff and I are super, duper close and do everything off-duty together,” Yardley said. “She’s like a second mom to my boys.
“She bought them tickets for this Denver Zoo show in January, she’d go to my kids’ football games, we played on a volleyball team together, did game nights at my house.”
Now Yardley said she’s in the same boat as the rest of Carbon County’s emergency responders and the community at large.
Suffering serious injuries, Greutzmacher faces a long, difficult recovery, Yardley said.
“It’s a really scary concept and journey that she’s going through,” she said. “She’s one of those people where everybody knows her … and it’s a hard reality for us.”
‘To Heaven Way Too Early’
Harris and his family face a far different challenge, planning for a future without a husband and father.
Kirklyn Crawford, Harris’ cousin, has started a GoFundMe effort for the family, which in less than 36 hours has raided more than $57,000 of an original $15,000 goal.
Crawford said she’s still overwhelmed by the situation.
“It’s been very hard for the whole entire family to grasp everything that happened,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s very heartbreaking, especially for those kids.
“I couldn’t imagine telling my kids that dad’s never coming home. It’s very emotional.”
Crawford said she was at work at a local medical clinic when she heard the tragic news.
She said a coworker told her, “Oh, no, an EMT from Carbon County passed away and was hit responding to a call.”
Then Tyeler’s wife Ashley called “and I immediately knew,” Crawford said. “It was very emotional, I couldn’t believe it.”
She said her cousin died doing what he loved, and that treating people in need “was his dream job.”
“He wanted to study to become a paramedic and go further with it. He was always a very caring individual, goofy and loving guy,” Crawford said.
Crawford also said “there are no words” to express how grateful the family is for the community support it’s received since the crash.
“It’s amazing to know everybody is out there making sure the boys are taken care of, and his wife,” she said. “It’s amazing to see what the community has done from my family.”
Yardley also has started a GoFundMe account for her friend, who will face a difficult recovery.
In less than 24 hours Friday afternoon, the push already had raised more than $13,500 of a $20,000 goal.
The response to both hers and Crawford’s GoFundMe efforts has been “overwhelming” and heartwarming, Yardley said, adding that for Harris’ family, “your heart’s just broken like theirs is.”
She said the tragedy is still raw for people in Rawlins and Saratoga.
“Everybody’s still pretty sad and very devastated by everything that’s going on,” Yardley said, adding that first responders have to keep doing their jobs.
“You don’t get time to stop and mourn because the next call is coming out,” she said. “It’s kind of a team effort to grieve through, and it’s a big impact on all of us.”
‘He Was A Goofball’
While she hopes people remember Tyeler as a man who loved helping people, Crawford said she’ll remember her cousin as just an all-around great guy.
“He was a goofball. He was always cracking jokes, trying to make people smile,” she said. “He was very religious, went to church every weekend.
“He was an amazing father, he really was. He was always worried about everyone around him, taking care of them.”
This week’s crash also is a reminder of the danger responders face when doing their jobs to help others, Yardley said.
“We’ve always been trained that you never know if you’re going to come home or if this is going to be your last shift,” Yardley said.
For Tyeler Harris, that cold Wednesday morning was his last shift, and Yardley and Crawford both said they hope it won’t be Greutzmacher’s.