Injured New York Fire Chief to Talk About Need to Buckle Up at Firehouse Expo

Things were going well for Eddie DiMartino.

He was a teacher and assistant chief of East Greenbush Fire Department in New York. He was his young son's hero.

On Feb. 18, 2009, DiMartino was in a life-changing event.

He was responding to a call in his personal vehicle when a crash occurred on a slushy road. DiMartino -- who was not wearing a seat belt -- suffered a traumatic brain injury as well as a sprained neck.

Meg recalls that day as if it were yesterday. She remembers opening her door to fellow firefighters who told her about the wreck. "They even brought people to watch our son, Nicholas."

On Thursday morning during opening ceremonies at Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, the couple will discuss the ramifications of Eddie's decision not to buckle up.

Attendees will see a gripping video that includes footage from a police officer's dashcam as well as emotional testimony from the couple.

Meg candidly admits that both she and her young son were angry that he wasn't wearing a seat belt. "Our son was in a little incident at school with another child. He said he was mad at his daddy for not buckling up."

She added that safety had always been part of their lives. "In pre-school, he learned he needed to wear a bike helmet."

Meg said she was surprised to learn how many firefighters are killed or injured because they aren't wearing seat belts.

"I was doing research when I learned about the National Fallen Firefighters' Foundation and the National Seat Belt Pledge."

DiMartino, who is now chief of his department, said they are close to achieving their goal of getting everyone to sign the seat belt pledge.

Meg said she's sharing their story to encourage people to spend the extra few seconds, and buckle up. "If we save one family and department from going through what we did, it's worth it."

While he has returned to teaching, he has not fully recovered.

He still has memory loss, and other problems.

"This has taken a toll on our family," Meg says.

She added that people don't understand brain injuries. "When he was wearing a brace, people would recognize or say something about him being hurt. When he stopped, they assumed he must be OK."

While emotions resurface during every presentation, Meg said she will continue to share so others will buckle up.