Responders overcome with emotion

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 22, 2008

WINTON – In light of the services they perform, emergency responders are often viewed as thick-skinned individuals.

However, in light of a horrific accident that claimed four lives, including two small children, near here Thursday afternoon, it was learned that emergency responders have a soft side as well.

“Nothing, not even on the job training, can prepare a person for what we saw on Thursday,” Hertford County Emergency Management Director Charles Jones said one day following the two-vehicle accident. “Fortunately, we do not see accidents of this magnitude on a regular basis.”

Unfortunately, those emergency responders were forced to deal with one on Thursday where a fully loaded log truck collided with a passenger car occupied by five individuals. The lone survivor, a three-year-old girl, remains in critical condition at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

“I’ve seen a lot in my 20-plus years of doing this job and this has to be the worse accident I’ve ever seen,” Jones said. “It affects you greater when there are small children involved. It just rips your heart out.”

Jones said there were emergency responders at the accident scene who were overcome with emotion.

“That’s fully understandable, especially with the severity of this accident, but it shows that we’re all human…we can show emotion,” he said.

However, a job remained ahead of those responsible for clearing the accident scene.

“What we decided to do was to hand-pick a crew to perform the extrication duties,” Jones said. “We briefed everyone on what to expect. We wanted to make sure they could deal with this tragic situation.”

In the aftermath, those responding to the scene will take part in a debriefing session, scheduled today (Saturday) at a local church. Jones said the debriefing team, comprised of state and county officials as well as volunteers, will address the level of stress involved with dealing with Thursday’s accident.

“What they will want us to do is open up and talk this out,” Jones said. “They do that in an effort to ensure that those who are in need of additional counseling are offered that opportunity.”

Other than Jones, those responding to the accident were personnel from Hertford County EMS, Hertford County Sheriff’s Office, Murfreesboro Fire Department, Ahoskie Town and Ahoskie Rural fire departments, Winton Fire Department, North Carolina State Highway Patrol and North Carolina DOT.