Joshua Rhoten was a paramedic-firefighter with CES.
Photo courtesy of CES
Paramedics and firefighters deal with tragedy, even death, on a regular basis. Understandably, though, it’s a little different when it’s one of their own.
Central Emergency Services medics were dispatched Friday morning to a report of a 30-year-old male, unconscious and breathing at a chiropractor’s office near Soldotna, only to find the victim was paramedic-firefighter Joshua Rhoten.
Responders treated him and transported him to Central Peninsula General Hospital, and from there he was flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.
Doctors determined Rhoten had suffered a stroke to three parts of his brain.
After some testing at Providence, he regained consciousness for a time and was able to talk to his wife of 2 1/2 years, Karalee, who was at his bedside.
Rhoten’s crew members prayed he would be OK following some stroke rehabilitation.
Early Sunday morning, however, a blood vessel broke in his brain, and he died.
With black bands wrapped around their firefighter badges, the mood of Rhoten’s fellow crew members was somber Monday afternoon as they spoke of their young comrade.
“When someone dies, and people say there was probably not a bad bone in his body, they don’t mention the person’s faults,” said Fire Marshal Gary Hale.
“With Josh, there were no faults. There’s not a person around here who didn’t like him,” Hale said.
“He was definitely a model firefighter,” said CES Chief Chris Mokracek.
Capt. Lesley Quelland, who had been Rhoten’s crew chief until January, said she was part of the hiring board that reviewed Rhoten when he applied to CES in October 2003 while on his honeymoon.
“I remember his easy character,” Quelland said.
“He could play a prank and get away with it because nobody suspected him,” she said.
Of his work, Quelland said Rhoten was, “definitely a go-to guy. He had excellent paramedic skills and was compassionate with his patients.”
Wes Perkins, who, along with Dale Lawyer, has been close to Rhoten the entire time he has been at CES, said Rhoten was always laughing, always had a smile.
Crew chief Capt. Mike McConahy said, “And he was sneaky.”
Crew member Reed Quinton said Rhoten, “was the last person you’d suspect (of a prank).”
Perkins said that, after awhile, responders become familiar with some patients who call regularly.
“I never saw Josh get impatient,” Perkins said.
“He never lost his head. I never saw him get worked up,” said Quinton.
Perkins also said Rhoten was the most knowledgeable when it came to search and rescue work.
“He went beyond the call to know his stuff,” Perkins said.
“He knew all about rope rescue, ice rescue, wilderness rescue,” he said.
“When you went to talk to him about rescue, you realized you were going to learn something from him,” Perkins said.
Firefighters are planning a private memorial service for their co-worker at CES on Thursday, and the family will conduct a private service in Eugene, Ore.
A memorial scholarship fund has been established at Key Bank in Joshua Rhoten’s name to pay for training at Kenai Peninsula College for future paramedics.
Karalee Rhoten will be moving back to Eugene to be closer to the Rhoten family, and CES is seeking the use of a moving trailer to help her get furniture and personal items to Oregon.
For more information, contact Assistant Chief Gordon Orth at 262-4792.
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