By FELICIA KRIEG Press-Republican
---- — CHAMPLAIN — Ambulance driver Eric Monty, who died in the line of duty last year, was honored at a recent memorial service in Albany.
The Mooers man suffered a massive heart attack and died shortly after midnight on Nov. 27, 2012, while he was driving a patient to the hospital.
“I think this memorial really brought a sense of closure to us as an agency, to the family, and I think we walk away from there remembering Eric,” said Champlain EMS Capt. Cory Thompson. “We’ll never forget him but also (are) continuing to be dedicated to what he represented in our agency.”
“The memorial service was above and beyond everything I expected,” said Susan Roberts, Monty’s sister and a Champlain emergency medical technician who was part of the crew on that last trip.
“They did just a beautiful job.”
Only two people were honored at the memorial, Monty and David G. Restuccio, a EMT from Staten Island.
“Line-of-duty deaths are pretty rare up here. This is the first one I’ve ever been involved with,” Thompson said.
He was surprised to see the size of the crowd at the service.
“There had to have been close to 300 people that attended this. We counted nearly 40 ambulances (agencies) that attended the memorial,” he said. “To me, it showed the bond that we have in EMS and fire (departments).”
‘THERE IN SPIRIT’
An honor guard, bagpipers and drummers honored the two emergency workers, Thompson said.
Roberts had expected it to rain that day, but upon her arrival at the Capitol building, the sun was shining.
Before the service, the security system on a Champlain EMS ambulance went off, something Thompson said had never happened before.
At the time, Roberts thought, “OK, Eric, we know you’re here.”
“He had quite a bit of his sense of humor in his living days,” she said.
“That really set the tone for us that day, that he was there with us in spirit. There was no question about that,” Thompson said.
Monty’s daughter, 15-year-old McKayla Monty, has been staying with Roberts since her father’s death.
Roberts said McKayla has shown amazing strength.
“She’s a remarkable young woman. She’s very faith-filled,” she said. “She’s always looking for the positive.”
Monty became an ambulance driver after his wife, Norma, died, Thompson said.
“She battled cancer for many years, and we took care of her quite a bit in the ambulance, and when she passed on, Eric felt it necessary to join our rescue squad and kind of give back,” he said. “That was his calling at that point.”
That was a little more than two years ago.
The night of Monty’s death, he and Champlain EMS had responded to a call for a person with chest pain.
He had helped set up an EKG and IV in the ambulance, his sister said.
“I remember going around the corner .... that is the last memory that I have,” Roberts said. “In a way, I guess it’s kind of a blessing.
“We can’t change the past. We loved him, and we miss him terribly, as we will our whole lives.”
Roberts and EMT Peter Coulombe were injured in the crash but have since recovered.
“I still have some occasional little issues (from injuries), but overall, I think I’m in pretty good shape again,” Roberts said.
Thompson said Coulombe recently returned to work as an EMT.
Thompson and Roberts described Monty, who had planned to qualify as an EMT, as a selfless and hardworking man, much loved by his friends and family.
“He had a beautiful heart, (was) a loving, a kind person,” Roberts said.
“Eric was very caring. He always put others before himself, whether it was family, community, work,” Thompson said, describing Monty as dedicated and dependable.
At the event, Monty’s family was presented with a flag and plaque in his memory.
“All of our family was so touched,” Roberts said.
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