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'He's definitely a fighter': Salt River first responder still hospitalized after deadly crash

Tyler Packer was injured in the crash that killed fellow firefighter and EMT Brendan Bessee.

MESA, Ariz. — The firefighter and paramedic badly injured in a crash in the East Valley last week is still in the hospital.

Tyler Packer was injured in the State Route 87 crash and firefighter/EMT Brendan Bessee was killed when their ambulance collided with a semi-truck.

‘We’re lucky to have him’

It didn’t take long for Packer to join the family at the Salt River Fire Department.

“He kind of fit right in with the guys right away,” Capt. Ray Martinez with the department said.

Even though Packer came from another department to join the department just a few months back, Martinez said it was Packer’s infectious personality that made the team lucky to have him.

“He always had a smile on his face. Even in the middle of training, sweating, and people are hurting and fatigued, he just was pretty much laughing the whole time, which is definitely different,” Martinez said.

RELATED: Firefighters identify EMT killed, paramedic injured in ambulance crash on SR-87 in Mesa

Ambulance split into two 

It was Friday afternoon when Bessee was behind the wheel of a Salt River Fire Department ambulance with Packer in the passenger seat.

Chief Daryl Dash told 12 News that they were responding to a call with lights and sirens when their rig and a semi-truck collided. Bessee was killed.

The Department of Public Safety said they’re still investigating how that happened and added that the semi-truck driver is now out of the hospital.

“It was definitely a hard thing to look at to see one of our rides split in two, knowing that our guys were in it at the time that that happened,” Martinez said.

Martinez said he’s been helping Packer as he’s joined the team to get trained up on how Salt River fire does things and said he had just spent time with Packer on Thursday.

“It's very hard to deal with right now. But we're making sure that he knows that he's being supported,” Martinez said. “We have a rotation right now where our guys are standing by at the hospital nonstop until he wakes up.”

The department told 12 News Packer is out of surgery and in critical condition as doctors work to evaluate him.

RELATED: Arizona mother sentenced for DUI crash that killed 5-year-old daughter

‘He’s definitely a fighter'

Martinez said he believes it’s Packer’s personality that will help him recover.

“He's definitely a fighter. Very strong-willed. Very strong-minded person,” Martinez said. “So if anybody can pull through something like this, it’ll be him.”

Martinez said that his presence is missed in their department, despite the short time Packer spent with them before the crash.

“To try and come back from this type of injury is not going to be easy,” Martinez said. “But we’ll be there for him to try and help him anyway we can.”

East Valley Firefighter Charities are raising money for Packer and his family during this time. 

If you’d like to help them out, you can donate here.

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