An emergency services volunteer never knows what the next call will bring, but, for one Sparta-White County Rescue Squad member, the “next call” was saving the life of one of his fellow team members.
Sunday, May 21, 2023, began just like another other Sunday for Sparta-White County Rescue Squad. Members had gathered at the station, at 2 p.m., to begin its bi-weekly training session. However, according to assistant chief Charlie Tollison, the day’s events would quickly present several challenges and ended with one member saving the life of a fellow rescue squad member.
At 2:56 p.m., as the events of the day began to unfold, rescue squad members were paged to an airplane crash, on Pistole Road, which was an automated dispatch alert. The alert gave the wrong location. The actual crash occurred in DeKalb County, with minor injuries.
Rescue volunteers returned to the station at approximately 6:43 p.m. to resume training. However, just when they were backing in the rescue vehicles, pagers were activated about a dog over a bluff at Rimrock Mesa, on Bon Air Mountain. This was the second similar call in two weeks. The team was successful in getting the dog to safety, with Jacob “Rescue Jake” Long retrieving the dog. Long was also the individual who retrieved a dog in the previous incident. This mission was completed at 8:20 p.m.
Rescue members then made the decision to proceed to Scott’s Gulf to do another training of finding the rescue location points on the trail to Virgin Falls.
Just after turning onto Eastland Road, as they were enroute to Scott’s
Gulf, rescue squad members were paged, at 8:30 p.m., to a motor vehicle wreck at DeRossett Market, which was less than one-half mile from Eastland Road. According to Tollison, there was heavy damage to the vehicles, but all patients, at the time of arrival, were walking and talking.
After rescue members completed their mission at the wreck, Tollison cancelled the scheduled training. Members returned to the station to clean and straighten up tools and equipment on the rope trailer and extrication truck.
“Here is where things show us, as emergency service workers, that things can come home very quickly,” Tollison said.
At 10:30 p.m., Long and probationary rescue member Brock Larson left the station, and both decided to stop and get food. Long went to Taco Bell, and Larson went to McDonald’s.
What you are about to read was posted by Long a few hours later.
Jacob “Rescue Jake” Long’s post:
“I’m not going to lie to you guys, today was a tough day. We started the day [May 21] doing extrication training to help our community in the best way possible. Our training was interrupted to respond to an aircraft down, with unknown location. Once clear, we finished our training and headed to the station and were dispatched to a rope rescue call. After an absolutely phenomenal response and show of professionalism, that call was a success.
“Not five minutes later, we were dispatched to a head-on collision right down the road, once again great response by all. Tired and weary, we headed to the station, sorted our gear, and put everything back in service and joking, ‘We have had planes, we have trained, we’ve had automobiles, and a dog/owner rescue.’
“We are done, hit the drive-through boys!
“We [myself and Larson] left at the same time. I was honking and waved at him, while he was still in line waiting as I passed with my food. Thank God McDonald’s was busy! Well, halfway from town to home, somewhere my burrito went rogue. I [Long] found myself choking and couldn’t breathe. I was starting to lose consciousness as I pulled off the highway best I could and slammed it in park.
“Grasping to anything I had left in me, I started hitting buttons on the dash to get a call out. I couldn’t see, my vision was closing in, and I was very sure this was it, until I heard a voice of one of our own [Larson] on the other end. My last gasp of air was able to get out “choking.” I knew this person [Larson] was behind me at the drive-through and how God let me hit the right blur on the dash I’ll never know. I heard on the phone, ‘I’m on my way.’ This man pulled me out of my truck like I’ve never been pulled before, successfully performed the Heimlich on me and had already called EMS enroute.
“When we talk about training constantly, we never talk about it being one of us needing saved. I can’t say how glad I am this person trains alongside of me, always staying current and learning more. When a first responder saves a first responder, it hits a little different. Without him, I can unquestionably tell you somebody would have found me dead. I always preach why we do what we do for people, we will never know. This time I can tell you exactly why we do what we do. To the brother that saved my life tonight, I thank you, my wife and kids thank you, my grandkids thank you, and the other people I can help thank you. Without you answering your phone late at night after a long day, I would not be here. So, for those keeping track, it’s planes, trained, automobiles, ropes, and rogue burritos that’ll get you.
“Stay safe brothers and sisters.” -- Jacob Long --
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