By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily
Ashley Harris sent a text to her husband the morning Dec. 21 wishing him good morning and asking him how he was doing.
She never received a response.
“Obviously, a couple hours later (I) figured out why,” she said.
Her husband, 29-year-old Tyeler Harris, died later that day while working his job as an emergency medical technician for Carbon County Emergency Medical Services.
The Saratoga resident was part of a crew responding to a crash near Rawlins on Interstate 80 when a semitrailer smashed into the original crash scene and the ambulance he and others were working from.
‘An Amazing Man And Father’
The days since have been surreal, Ashley Harris said Friday in a conversation with Cowboy State Daily.
She remembers her husband as a man of infinite generosity and a deep love for his family.
Tyeler Harris leaves behind his wife and three young boys, ages 9, 6 and 3.
“He was an amazing man and father, and didn’t do EMS for the glory,” she said. “He did it just to help people. He would always go out of his way to help people, or if he got help from someone try to pay it back tenfold when he could.”
Others Pay It Back
The Rawlins and Carbon County community, along with many others from around the globe who have heard about the tragedy, have stepped up to support the Harris family during a difficult time, donating more than $83,000 to a GoFundMe account set up on their behalf.
Generosity also manifested in other ways, with neighbors offering food, day care and any other assistance needed.
“It’s a good, overwhelming (feeling) to have that kind of support, but at times it’s like, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize we had that much support,’” Ashley said.
Through the Rawlins News and Chatter Facebook page, Ashley learned of a woman who Tyeler had saved in September.
“She was just very thankful for it and just devastated by the news,” Ashley said. “With patient confidentiality and all of that, I don’t get to hear all of that kind of thing, so it was nice to hear he made an impact with someone.”
Despite his death only coming four days before Christmas, Ashley said she still received a stunning number of gifts for her children from the community, “spoiling” her boys for the holiday.
A Nerf Tribute
They received a surplus of Nerf guns, leading the family to have a Nerf gun war in their father’s honor.
“This was a good way to honor Tyeler because we always had Nerf gun wars at our house, but there were more people to partake,” she said. “It seems like that will be a new Christmas tradition. Christmas Day we’ll do a Nerf gun war in honor of their dad.”
But the gun that may be most significant of all for the Harris family is a competition pistol Tyeler bought for his eldest son for his 9th birthday.
The two bonded over shooting, with his son a member of his 4-H shooting club.
“Once he (Tyeler) was home for his last rotation we were supposed to go shoot it for the first time,” Ashley said.
He taught his sons how to safely use firearms, and the family could be found at the range almost every weekend. Tyeler also bought the boys rockets and helped them assemble the toys every step of the way.
“Just teaching how to become good humans in the future,” Ashley said.
‘Hasn’t Set In ’
When she learned about Tyeler’s death, Ashley said it didn’t feel real.
“That’s still kind of in my head a little bit,” she said.
Tyeler’s job as an EMT had him working five-day shifts, during which he would sleep at the hospital. He was on the job from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. and then was on call as backup during the daytime hours.
This dynamic would result in him being away from his family for five days at a time before returning home for five-day weekends.
For a previous job, he was typically gone for two weeks at a time and had missed Christmas before.
“We were used to him working very hard to provide for us and being gone,” Ashley said. “It still kind of hasn’t set in that he’s not coming back.”
She said her boys are working through the tragedy but aren’t sure how to process their father’s passing.
“They have their moments,” she said.
Ashley said Tyeler had a goofy personality and was a wonderful father to their children.
“He always loved to do things with them no matter the age that they were at,” Ashley said.
Hunting, fishing, and collecting and researching guns were some of his other passions.
When Tyeler got his EMT job with Memorial Hospital of Carbon County, he told the hiring staff he couldn’t start work immediately because he had to go on a hunting trip with his grandfather.
“‘I can’t cancel with my grandpa,’” Ashley said Tyler told hospital staff. He was “always a family man.”
Despite moving away from Riverton, Ashley said he always tried making it back home for every important family event.
Despite Tyeler having been away for Christmas before, Ashley said this year felt different knowing his warm, smiling face wouldn’t come through their front door again.
Lived His Dream
Ashley and Tyeler grew up in Riverton and started dating in high school after meeting doing a school play.
They were engaged when Ashley was a senior, the same year they had their first child. Both attended and graduated Central Wyoming College together.
Over the next five years, they both attended the University of Wyoming at different times, while also taking time off from school to work jobs and raise their family.
A Life-Changing Event
Harris started working as a full-time EMT in November 2021, inspired to serve after helping a man suffering a heart attack a few years earlier.
“Tyeler actually looked at him and saw that he wasn’t breathing, and he was able to coordinate someone calling 911 and getting someone on the phone to help talk people through CPR and making sure the airway was clear,” Ashley said. “That gave him the bug to want to be an EMT.”
On his first emergency response call to Interstate 80, Ashley said Tyeler was filled with nervous excitement and jitters, not unlike a kid in a candy store.
Even though the call ended up being fairly mundane, the experience meant a lot to Tyeler.
“He was still excited to be out there and help,” Ashley said.
Made A Difference
Even when he had a tough day on the job, Ashley said her husband always had a positive outlook on his profession and the impact he made for his community.
“He was always able to look at the bright side of things,” she said. “He had his faith and belief in God that things go a certain way for a reason, and if it’s not the reason we wanted there’s deeper meaning behind it that we’re not aware of yet.”
In Harm’s Way
Ashley said she knew the risks Tyeler faced when he went to work each day and told him to be safe every time he left the house.
Tyeler would always text Ashley when he got to work after making the 40-minute drive to Rawlins, and if he was transferred to another location would always let her know.
“He always kept me in the loop,” she said.
On the day he died, Tyeler was supposed to come home and work on the family vehicle after his shift, which was the last one he had to work before Christmas.
They were planning to go to Riverton for the holiday.
“I’m sure it’s a wake-up call for many many people,” Ashley said of Tyeler’s story. “Not just to be safe on the roads, but to hug your loved ones and say you love them because you never know if they’re going to come back the next day.”
Ashley said she is unsure how the Christmas holiday will feel for her family moving forward, which she said will forever be marked by Tyeler’s passing.
“I don’t know what the future will hold,” Ashley said. “I know there will be some Christmases that will be almost like normal – a fun, happy joyous time celebrating with family.
“I’m sure there will be others that are hard and just counting down the days.”
The last conversation she had with Tyeler was about Christmas gifts for their boys. They realized they had forgotten a present for the youngest son, which Tyeler said he would get.
The gift was never picked up.
‘We’re All EMS Family’
Harris’ fellow EMT Tiffany Greutzmacher was also on the call that day. She was seriously hurt in the crash, but is recovering and is back at home in Rawlins.
Ashley communicated briefly with Greutzmacher while she was in the hospital, but said she wants to give her a little space in her recovery.
“We’re letting her be on her own to process and heal, and she’s been doing the same for us,” Ashley said. “I’m not planning on letting her be alone, and I’m sure she’s not planning on letting us part ways. We’re all EMS family.”
As far as the generous financial donations her family has received, Ashley is unsure how it will be put to use.
“Things that help my boys,” she said. “Tyler worked his butt off to provide for me and his children and I’m going to try and do my best to honor him by using the money to do the same.”
The hole left by Tyeler’s death will never be filled in the Harris family, but Ashley hopes people can learn from the tragedy.
“I think a lot of the general public in Wyoming know the risks, it’s just I-80 that’s the terrible thing,” she said.
A Belief In Forgiveness
The driver of the semitrailer that crashed into the original incident scene has been identified as Saviol Saint Jean, of Brooklyn, New York. Driver inattention is being investigated as a possible contributing factor of the crash.
“If he’s a normal person, you would think he’s probably having some remorse,” Ashley said. “I hope he can learn to forgive himself because he did kill someone and severely injured another.”
Although Ashley said she hopes “the book is thrown” at Jean if he is prosecuted and found guilty in causing the fatal crash, she respects his presumed innocence.
She believes in forgiveness for all sins, a lesson she and Tyeler tried to teach her children.
“You need to make sure they are guilty, and even if they are, you still have to forgive them,” she said. “Maybe (it comes) long down the road, but it needs to happen.”