Every Sunday I try to take the kids out for Ice Cream at a local ice cream shop. This Wednesday was no different. We got our usual $1 cones with sprinkles from the drive through and headed home. As usual I had the police scanner on in the background listening to the police and EMS traffic as we drove.
Listening to the scanner started as a hobby when I was 14 that later led me to photography and ultimately at my current job as a photojournalist. You would be amazed at what you find out listening to the scanner and what actually goes on in your neighborhood, most stuff that happens never makes the news.
On our way back home I heard the Fire Rescue dispatcher dispatch E-7, my ears perked up because I just passed their station 10 seconds prior to the callout. The dispatcher proceeded to dispatch additional units including the Heavy Rescue Unit (HR-11) for a crash into a tree with entrapment, they also placed Aeromed, a medical helicopter on standby. This was a sign to me that this must be a serious crash. The dispatcher voiced the address. It was a location that I was familiar with as I have family in that neighborhood .
I was only 3 minutes away. I turned around and responded to the scene.
My kids are used to seeing fires, crashes and police action and oddly enough seem to enjoy it, especially my four year old son. So instead of taking them home they asked to come with me and see what was going on.
I arrived at the scene about a minute after the first truck arrived. The scene looked pretty bad. I heard the Captain tell dispatch to launch the helicopter. He also gave an update to the HR-11 which was enroute and only about 3 minutes away. I pulled up to the scene close, but not too close that I would be blocked in by the arriving units.
One of the first things I saw when I parked was a leg sticking out of the rear driver’s side window. It shocked me. I have seen hundreds of crashes and many of them very serious and even fatal but seeing body parts sticking out like always takes you back.
I stayed in my car for a minute or so to size up the scene.
Are there any downed powerlines? Fuel spilled? Angry cops? But most importantly upset family members or friends. This is something that I really take into consideration for the respect of family members that may be on the scene. No matter who you are, if some guy with a camera gets out to take pictures of their family member who is seriously injured you are going to be upset. So for that reason I decided to stay in my car and make photos from the window. Sheriff deputies were trying to clear out the dozen or so bystanders that stopped to take a look at the crash but more and more people came out of their homes to watch the incident unfold. Just as I was going to the back of my car to get my cameras I noticed some people visibly distraught try to get to the scene, a Deputy quickly stopped them. I heard someone in the group say “That’s my son” My heart sunk…
I stopped taking photos as the family was directly behind my car and I did not want to upset them. I don’t think they saw me but I wanted to respect them and not take any photos until they were gone. Just then they pulled out a male victim who had his leg hanging out of the window. He was shaking blood off of his hands and was walked to a waiting ambulance. I felt better that he was able to get out of the car. About that time I overheard on the scanner that Aeromed could not fly due to weather. The night was very foggy and the National Weather Service had issued a dense fog advisory so I imagine for the safety of the crew, their protocols did not allow them to fly in those conditions. I heard the dispatchers try to get two different helicopters from St. Petersburg and Orlando but none of them where able to fly.
A quick side note on this.. I have friends who fly on Aeromed. I myself have flown and photographed with Aeromed on many flights and I know they do everything they can to respond but sometimes is just not safe for the crew or the patients so they must stand down.
After I saw the ambulance leave and the family relocate I got out of my vehicle and photographed the passenger get extricated from the vehicle. The guys on Heavy Rescue 11 are some of the best extrication techs in the USA and they do a remarkable job. I tried to stay until they got the patient out but Deputies started moving everyone out of the area, and since I got what I needed already I left the scene.
The next morning I received a press release saying the male victim died at the hospital. It was sad to hear that as I thought he was fine after seeing him get loaded to the ambulance. he was only 16 years old.
It turned out to be a bigger story than I imagined and I am glad the local media got a chance to tell his story. You can read our report on it here: http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/accidents/bloomingdale-high-student-16-killed-in-traffic-crash/1268805