Pinellas Sunstar paramedics are grieving the loss of one of their own. Minutes after leaving a training class Monday afternoon, 33-year old Christopher Jennings of Palm Harbor was killed when his motorcycle crashed into the passenger side of a large SUV.
Tuesday afternoon, some of his co-workers shared their memories of Jennings.
"No matter how tired he was, no matter -- anything thrown his way, he always had a smile on his face," SWAT medical team leader Christopher Eisenhardt said.
The SWAT team was extra duty. Sunstar operations supervisor Michael Bureau confirmed Jennings carried the same attitude in his day-to-day duties as an ambulance paramedic.
"He always wanted to make the situation he was involved in better, and he was just one of those genuinely joyful people who was able to exude that," Bureau said.
The co-workers also confirmed the recollections of Nicole Nugent, who met Jennings as a first responder: A lawnmower accident severely injured her 2-year old daughter, Ireland Nugent.
"They just took to each other immediately," Nugent told FOX 13 News. "Chris was telling me how he made funny faces in the back of the ambulance and Ireland was making funny faces back at him and they just got each other through that time."
His fellow paramedics were initially reluctant to discuss Jennings' affection for two-wheeled transportation, but eventually described it as a part of the package.
"With Chris, with that motorcycle, it was part of his freedom and part of his life and part of his person, that he enjoyed that ride and he enjoyed that freedom," paramedic Joshua Schuster said, adding Jennings would occasionally show up for SWAT training without his gear because he could not carry it on a motorcycle.
Nonetheless, "He would not strike you as a hot dogger," paramedic Andrew Lusher said. "Never saw him ride without a helmet, he had gloves, he had what looked like a ballistic jacket."
Jennings worked for Sunstar for about three years and was a SWAT medic for two years. Before that he worked for a fire department in his home state of Georgia.
Services are pending, but fellow paramedics immediately shrouded their badges with black bands. Those who transported Jennings from the crash scene were immediately debriefed at the hospital and sent home for that shift and the next. Counseling is also offered to other Sunstar employees.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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