October 25, 2022
Station Supervisor Uses Safety Training to Rescue College Student in Creek
A West Liberty University student left class around 10 a.m. on a recent brisk fall day. Wet leaves on the ground created a pretty scene on her drive through the hilly countryside on Route 88, but they also posed a safety hazard. When station supervisor Kevin Sparks (TFS East, Ohio) found this young woman on his way to a jobsite, her car had rolled down into a creek below a steep s-curve. Her vehicle was in the water, smashed on all sides, including the roof. All the windows were broken.
The young student was stumbling in the creek by her car, trying to figure out what happened. His situational awareness told him something was definitely 'off'. Both a military veteran and a safety instructor at AEP, Sparks put his safety skills into action. He turned his truck's flashers and overhead beacon on and hustled down the hill to help while putting his safety gloves on.
"I thought she was trying to catch her balance, trying to grab hold of the car as she was stumbling around. I knew she had to be in shock. The creek was moving pretty fast after a lot of rain recently, and this was not safe," said Sparks. "When I got closer, I realized she could not see at all because so much blood was rushing down into her field of vision. Trying to hold onto the car 'by feel' was probably the only thing she could think to do to hold herself up. I quickly told her I was there to help and got her up out of the creek to safety," said Sparks.
The student was shaken up, terrified, cold to the bone and battered from the accident. Wearing gloves and proper PPE, Sparks got her into the passenger seat of his AEP truck and turned up the heat. He offered her clean shop towels to wipe her own eyes so he did not cause further damage.
"She was shivering pretty badly from being in the creek on a 42-degree-day, on top of the shock she had to be going through," said Sparks. The student used Sparks' clean shop towels to remove debris and blood out of her eyes and ears enough to use her senses and make necessary phone calls. He helped her apply pressure to her headwound with a separate clean towel, wearing gloves. "We probably changed her rags out three or four times, at least," he said.
Sparks said he used every step of the safety trainings given at AEP on the scene of this accident. "Yearly CPR trainings and semi-regular situational hazard trainings are provided for our personnel, but it was really amazing to see how the safety steps even translated to helping with community safety. This was a person who was hurt out on my service route, and I was able to help her using the same process as we learned for an AEP employee. The process works," said Sparks.
After the young lady got up to dry land and cleaned herself up, Sparks helped her call her parents. At this point, a line of cars had formed behind his vehicle. People parked in line came to check on the situation and see how they could help. The student's mother, police and medical assistance were on the way.
The county sheriff deputies arrived as Sparks noticed traffic congestion forming. Going the extra mile for the community, Sparks put on his bright yellow safety vest. He headed to the top of the hill to direct traffic and help explain the scene ahead, so people could proceed slowly and with caution. He said he worked with local police to tag-team each end of the busy road.
"You just think of your own kids out there, and think how you would want people to treat them if they got in a wreck," said Sparks. "I'm glad I was able to help. Everyone who stopped in line was kind and helpful as well. We have some real nice people around here." Sparks is definitely one of these nice people, and is a true hero.
After the student was taken for medical help, Sparks said he "just went back to work." He does not know about the student's outcome or condition, but said she was in much better shape when she was picked up by medics, than when he found her bloody in the creek. He hopes for a speedy recovery for the young lady.
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