Fine examples

Published 10:17 pm Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just how dangerous were Suffolk’s roads during the storm that dumped nearly six inches of rain on the city Tuesday evening?

If you were unfortunate enough to be driving in the midst of that storm, you know things were pretty rough at various points in the evening. Sometimes, it seemed, there was as much water in the sky as air. Headlights were unable to penetrate the sheets of water falling to the ground. Traffic crawled as drivers tried to make out the center line or the side of the road or any other reference points that would help ensure they stayed on the pavement and didn’t stray into a ditch.

What’s even more telling than all that, however, is the nightmare that one of the city’s fire departments experienced while responding to an emergency medical call at the height of the storm.

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With rain falling at a rate of as much as two inches per hour and some roads around the village covered by two feet of water, Chuckatuck emergency personnel responded to a call to pick up a victim of cardiac arrest just over the line in Isle of Wight. Firefighters, EMTs and police officers are all unable to choose the conditions in which they’ll serve. Their duties call for them to be ready to head — literally — into the teeth of the gale to save lives. So when the call came for Chuckatuck to go pick up the patient, Engine 9 was sent into the worst of the storm.

But water rushing across Lankford Lane obscured the road and forced the truck into a ditch. A similar fate was in store for two Isle of Wight County deputies who were responding to the same call and got swept off Tan Road by three feet of rushing water.

The deputies were rescued by a Carrollton Volunteer Fire Department member in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The cardiac victim was finally rescued by a four-wheel-drive vehicle driven by Chuckatuck Fire Chief Greg Parsons, who then delivered the patient to an ambulance from Isle of Wight Volunteer Rescue Squad, which was waiting on the other side of the high water. The ambulance carried the patient to Sentara Obici Hospital.

It was a great example of the can-do spirit and culture of cooperation among members of the emergency services field. Nobody stopped trying to help the original victim, even when things seemed hopeless, even when their own lives were in danger.

What fine examples these folks set for the rest of us.