“2S2, a firefighter was just hit by a car!”
It was a summer night in August when I heard those chilling words over the radio.
The sergeant then broadcasted that this was a hit and run and he needed Code 3 units.
As I rolled toward the location I wondered how could this happen. Firefighters aren’t supposed to get hit by cars. It’s not in the rule book.
I just happened to be down the street when I heard the call. I floored the gas pedal and pushed the car as hard as it could go. I was there in less than thirty seconds.
When I arrived I saw the fire truck parked facing in a southeasterly direction with its red lights flashing in the night. A fire hose was pulled across the street toward the burned vehicle.
There was a burned out vehicle smoldering on the side of the road in front of this run down looking motel.
The air was filled with foul smelling smoke. It was the kind of smell that invades the lungs and makes you want to turn your head.
Everything looked normal up to that point.
That’s when I saw the firefighter lying motionless on his back in the street. He was wearing his fire turnouts, helmet and breathing apparatus.
His three partners were kneeling beside him and they were yelling his name. There was fear and panic in their voices. They kept calling his name and told him to hold on.
This weird feeling came over me. It was as if all sound ceased to exist at that moment except for their voices. The volume and emotion in their voices made me nervous. I didn’t want to see him die in front of me.
I stood over them and I was shocked to see blood on the inside of his mask. I could barely see his face as he grimaced in pain.
Then the sound of the night came rushing back to my ears. It was as if every police siren could be heard echoing in the night as they raced to our location.
Then there were tons of cops getting out of their cars, all wanting to help. A command post was set up to coordinate a search for the suspect.
Another fire truck arrived and the firefighter was loaded into an ambulance. The siren of the ambulance screamed into the night as it drove toward U.C.I. Medical Center.
His three partners remained at the scene. They all had a look of disbelief and anguish.
I have a vivid memory of the engineer slowly walking to the fire truck and sitting on the front bumper. I watched as he put his hands on his knees and lowered his head. He just sat there and didn’t move for a long time.
I then spoke to the captain. He told me about responding to the car fire and where their truck was parked. The firefighter pulled a hose and started putting water on the burning car. The captain stood a little farther south and stopped traffic in both northbound lanes.
That is when the suspect vehicle drove around the stopped cars and headed straight at the captain.
The firefighter was facing the burning car at this point and he had no idea what was about to happen. The captain waved his flashlight at the speeding car, but it didn’t stop. He yelled a warning toward his firefighter, but he didn’t hear it.
The car sped directly at the helpless firefighter and hit him.
The impact sent his body into the air as he was propelled backward. The firefighter then skidded across the asphalt on his back until he finally came to a stop.
His battered body made at least thirty feet of gouge marks in the asphalt as he scraped across the street. It was amazing he wasn’t killed. There’s no doubt his equipment saved him from more serious injuries.
The vehicle never stopped……
The fire truck wasn’t parked in the best spot to protect them, but that didn’t give the suspect the right to drive around the stopped traffic.
Fast forward over ten years later.
I drove by this location last night and the motel sign triggered the memory of this call. It was the same sign where the burned out car was parked next to. The sights, sounds and smell of that night came back.
I pictured the fire truck and where the firefighter was lying in the road. I could picture the burned out car and other things from that night. There was also the sound of the firefighters yelling out his name.
Then it all faded away back into a distant memory by the time I got to the next traffic signal. The night went back to being quiet and peaceful.
As for the firefighter, he recovered and was medically retired.
The suspect and car were never found. It’s hard to believe that no one ever came forward with information about this. Who fixed that car? Who helped hide the car and the suspect? Who could keep that secret?
Who could hit a firefighter or anyone else like that and not be disgusted every time they looked in the mirror?
Who knows, maybe the driver or someone who knows them will read this one day. If that ever happens I have a message for the driver.
“$#!%$@!. You suck.”
John – thank you for this post. The firefighter who was so terribly injured that night was my brother. He was so young, and we thought we’d lost him for sure. I really appreciated your touching words. It’s amazing to me that you remember it so well, and while I’ve seen the report and of course talked to the guys at the hospital who were there, there were details that you captured that I didn’t know. It amazes me that despite the dedication of the officers to find the driver, that he or she was never found and no one gave any real leads. Maybe after all these years someone will finally speak out.
Thank you! I really appreciate the kinds words. Where did you find the story at? I bet it was a big surprise to read it.
It was! Actually my brother was at the gate waiting to catch a plane when someone sent him a link and as he was reading it was a rather surreal moment as he gradually realized it was about him and he forwarded it on to me
Check your photography email please. I have a follow up to the email I sent you.