DECATUR -- Family and friends of a volunteer Niantic firefighter struck by a van Wednesday afternoon while battling a grass fire near Interstate 72 had a simple message for drivers who see rescue workers: Drive cautiously.
"People just need to need to know when they see a fire truck, slow down," said Bill Wood. Wood, EMS coordinator for St. Mary's Hospital, is the uncle of injured volunteer Timothy S. Wood. The accident happened just before 4 p.m. when a van driven by Larry L. Reed, 54, of Decatur, struck Wood as he stepped out of the cab of a fire truck into the westbound lanes, according to the Illinois State Police. Wood, 21, of Illiopolis, had apparently sought shelter in the cab to avoid smoke from the fire on the north side of the interstate when the winds changed. Reed was ticketed for driving too fast for conditions.
Niantic Fire Protection District Chief George Kornfeld said visibility was very bad at the time of the impact, and most of the cars passing the fire did not slow down." [The impact) just knocked him out of his shoes," Kornfeld said. Kornfeld said his firefighters have come close to being hit by cars several times while battling blazes. On Wednesday, firefighters called for a Sheriff's deputy to control traffic before the accident, but no one arrived. Sgt. Dan Burris of the Macon County Sheriff's Office said he was not aware of the request, but a deputy would have been sent if any were available.
He said all three deputies on the street were likely tied up on a fight call at the time of the fire. Wood was transferred from Decatur Memorial Hospital to St.John's Hospital in Springfield, where he was being evaluated Wednesday night.
But his uncle said his injuries ranged from cuts to broken bones to internal injuries. "He's got some sort of injury from his chin to his toes," Bill Wood said. As family and friends gathered at the emergency room Wednesday afternoon, a bill called Scott's Law was on their minds. That measure, currently in the Illinois Senate, would increase the penalties for reckless driving around emergency vehicles. The proposal is named for a Chicago firefighter killed by an alleged drunken driver while working. Firefighter John Fagin Jr., who was at the scene during Wednesday's accident,
said firefighters frequently have problems with drivers not paying attention or slowing down. He said he didn't see the accident but heard a thump and found Wood laying in front of the fire truck, where he had managed to crawl after the impact. Wood's brother, Matt, a firefighter in Illiopolis, said his brother was very active in the community and encouraged him to get into firefighting. He said Tim had been laughing and joking with his uncle at the hospital. "He's in pain, but he's trying to show everyone he's strong," Matt Wood said.
[This message has been edited by Captain Hickman (edited 04-09-2001).]
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04-09-2001, 03:03 PM #1Captain HickmanFirehouse.com Guest
Could it happen to YOU? Think about it!
04-14-2001, 05:32 AM #2Terry StokesFirehouse.com Guest
I've just read that which many in our time in service have experienced. Again, it's the uneducated to this issue that will not read of it. I am disappointed to read that the police were informed but never arrived. How many times has that happened.
We've all been through this. Experiencing the risk's and lack of commonsense that exists in the general public and their behaviors when driving. Surely it is up to us as officers, trainers, and more simply, fellow firefighters to identify potentially dangerous fireground behavior. I don't ever remember bring instructed to exit an engine on the traffic side of the road. Or is it a case of the blinkers that can often shield our eyes from everything else happening around us. When one is so completely focused on task.
This is such an unnecessary incident, the sort of thing we see or read far too often.
I wish Timothy God-speed in recovery.
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