4 honored for going above, beyond duty
by GREG KAYLOR, Banner Staff Writer
Apr 14, 2013 | 1217 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Four local responders were honored Friday for going above and beyond their duty after a car crashed into a gas line at Signature Healthcare. From left are Troy Spence, Emergency Management Agency director and interim chief for the Bradley County Fire and Rescue Service; Keith Umberger,  critical care paramedic; Megan Phillips, emergency medical technician; Sean Hennessee, emergency medical technician; Eric Johnson, paramedic, all with Bradley County EMS; and  Donnie Sherlin, Cleveland Fire Department. Not available for the photo was Keisha Holcomb, former employee at Signature Healthcare.
Four local responders were honored Friday for going above and beyond their duty after a car crashed into a gas line at Signature Healthcare. From left are Troy Spence, Emergency Management Agency director and interim chief for the Bradley County Fire and Rescue Service; Keith Umberger, critical care paramedic; Megan Phillips, emergency medical technician; Sean Hennessee, emergency medical technician; Eric Johnson, paramedic, all with Bradley County EMS; and Donnie Sherlin, Cleveland Fire Department. Not available for the photo was Keisha Holcomb, former employee at Signature Healthcare.
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It was a warm day in early February when emergency responders from several agencies rushed to the scene where a car had ruptured a natural gas line.

The big deal was the driver of the car was still inside his vehicle and it occurred at a health care facility filled with residents of special need.

On Friday, Signature Healthcare recognized four Bradley County Emergency Medical Service personnel and one of their employees who played a crucial role for the facility during the incident.

Keith Umberger, Eric Johnson, Sean Hennessee and Megan Phillips of BCEMS, and Keisha Holcomb, admissions director of Signature, were recognized awards for their efforts.

BCEMS medical technicians Hennessee and Phillips had just completed transporting a patient to Signature Healthcare of Cleveland, according to Stan Clark of BCEMS.

As they were getting ready to depart, they noticed a commotion toward the front of the building. Someone came inside and told them they needed their help outside. When they went outside, they saw a car had crashed through a five-foot retaining wall.

While working with the driver and passenger to make sure they were safe and being treated, the two technicians alerted other emergency officials.

The passenger was removed from the car, while the male driver remained inside.

The car had gone through the wall and crashed into the emergency generator, rupturing its natural gas line underground.

Gas was spewing into the surrounding atmosphere.

Holcomb, of Signature began putting their Emergency Operations Plan into action, evacuating the area near the leak.

Residents were sheltered in place, but emergency managers from Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency and Cleveland Fire Department worked to contain the area and make plans “just in case” additional evacuation measures needed to be exercised.

Additional help arrived.

Bradley County Fire Rescue Chief and Emergency Management Agency Director Troy Spence coordinated with schools to have buses staged in the event of a full evacuation.

“This situation was critical in that one small spark could ignite the natural gas that was now gushing into the interior of the car,” Clark said.

Hennessee and Phillips had inhaled a significant amount of fumes from the broken line. Umberger had the two technicians remove themselves to get fresh air.

The driver was still in the car and had been fitted with an oxygen mask. Paramedics Umberger and Johnson worked to remove the man from his car.

By this time, according to Clark, the fumes were overwhelming.

“These EMS responders went above and beyond the call of duty and risked their lives on this day to save the lives of these two individuals. If one thing had gone wrong, this incident would have had a very tragic outcome not only for our responders, but the occupants of the car and the nursing facility. These guys are true heroes,” Clark said.

“We appreciate the fact that Signature Health Care recognized these professionals of BCEMS,” Clark added.

“This was a critical time of day when the event occurred and everyone responded to the need in timely fashion, doing their part and making the operation safe and seamless,” Clark said Friday.