LOXLEY, Alabama -- It’s something that no first responder hopes they will ever have to deal with, but when called, officers with the Loxley Police Department and Loxley Volunteer Fire Department …
LOXLEY, Alabama -- It’s something that no first responder hopes they will ever have to deal with, but when called, officers with the Loxley Police Department and Loxley Volunteer Fire Department were among those that stepped up to the challenge.
In the early morning hours of March 13, a charter bus carrying students were returning from a trip to Disneyworld in Florida, back to their home state of Texas when the bus plunged into a ravine off of Interstate 10, killing the driver and injuring more than 20.
There were 52 people on board the bus at the time of the crash, according to reports, including students and teachers.
Emergency response personnel from multiple agencies responded to the crash. Injured passengers have been transported to various local hospitals in Baldwin County as well as Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Florida.
Among the first to arrive on scene were officers with the Loxley Police Department and volunteers from the Loxley Fire Department.
On Friday, April 6, officers from both departments were honored by the J.O.Y. (Just Older Youth) club at the Loxley Church of God.
“I just don’t think our officers were given a lot of credit for what they did that day,” said Katherine Breeden, who serves on the Loxley Town Council and heads up the group. “We just wanted to do something to let them know that we appreciate them and all that they do for our town.”
Among those honored were Loxley Fire Chief Raymond “Tony” Lovell, who also serves as a lieutenant with the Loxley Police Department, assistant fire chief Ed Vaughn, and police officers Kyle Hattemar and Chris Warren.
Lt. Doug Phillips, who heads up the LPD patrol division, read a letter addressed to Police Chief Chip Cason from Jamie Hinton, an EMT on scene who has also served with the Loxley Fire Department.
“I being on the scene from near the beginning of operations was able to observe the actions of those present and feel it is important that the labors of your officers be brought to light, Hinton wrote.
“As one is aware, should one lose control of a scene early it is often never regained and continues to plummet and often times difficulties become much worse. A calm presence is invaluable and allows other responders to maintain composure and in this case places the injured at east. Officers Hattemar and Warren were key factors in this.”
Hinton describes seeing Warren around the area outside the bus coordinating the efforts for removal of the injured.
“His calm demeanor and tone influenced other responders to maintain the same, which proved invaluable in maintaining the continuity and success of the operation,” Hinton wrote.
Warren was separating the injured into groups of those who could and could not walk. A plan was then devised to move the patients to the roadway above for triage, treatment and transport purposes.
“Officer Warrant and a group of deputies worked tirelessly moving patients. The stairs that descended from the roadway to the area where the bus laid were of a horribly steep grade that made regular walking difficult at best, however they ascended and descended those steps multiple times, not only escorting the walking injured, buy carrying untold numbers on backboard that could not walk. I assure you that fatigue was an enormous factor, but never played into their actions.”
Hinton’s first encounter with Hattemar was the officer calling his name from inside the bus. Hattemar, who is also a licensed EMT, was assessing patients inside the bus and gave Hinton a full report of what needed to be done to assist them.
“Officer Hattemar’s calm presence in the face of such adverse conditions was nothing short of astonishing,” Hinton wrote. “To be able to move efficiently through the tangled and confined mess and perform a rapid assessment of those patients was nothing short of incredible.”
Hinton’s letter goes on to describe how Hattemar worked to keep patients calm through having to cut into the roof in order to gain access with sparks and metal flying both inward and outward.
“The actions of these two officers that morning made a huge difference in the command, control and success of the operation. I commend them both on a spectacular job well done.”
When fully staffed, the Loxley Police Department consists of 15 officers and is split into a criminal investigations division, headed by Lovell, and a patrol division, headed by Phillips. Cason has served as chief since 2007.
The department also supplies patrol officers to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office interstate interdiction task force and covers an area of 120 square miles, making it the largest police jurisdiction in Baldwin County.
“We’re a big, small department,” Phillips said.