Quick response to wreck saves life

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Angela Jones

Around 7 p.m. on Friday evening, Oct. 23, Benton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Kirk Catherwood observed a vehicle laying on its roof in a ditch along Hwy 69A, a short distance outside of the city limits of Big Sandy. Driver William Kirkpatrick, of Camden, was still trapped inside the Subaru.

Catherwood called in the accident to dispatch as he went to help. His quick response, along with that of Big Sandy Police Chief James Sukach and members of the Big Sandy Fire Department, may have saved Kirkpatrick’s life.

Out on patrol, Sukach heard the call and immediately headed to the crash site. He observed Catherwood attempting to extricate Kirkpatrick from the overturned vehicle. Although Catherwood had cut the seatbelt, to relieve the pressure and afford the driver better breathing, Kirkpatrick was trapped under the rear seat headrest and seemed dazed and confused.

Both officers talked with Kirkpatrick, explaining what they were attempting to do. As they spoke, smoke began to billow from the engine compartment and flames were visible near the driver’s feet.

In a flash, Sukach grabbed his fire extinguisher, Catherwood updated dispatch, and the officers stepped up the pace to free the trapped man. Sukach used the extinguisher to keep the flames at bay as Catherwood worked desperately to release Kirkpatrick.

As the extinguisher emptied, the Big Sandy Fire Department arrived and provided a replacement. With the assistance of fire department personnel, Catherwood finally was able to free the driver. Once all persons were clear, the fire truck put the fire out completely.

Kirkpatrick was treated by EMS on scene then transported to the emergency room at Camden General Hospital. Per Sukach, one of Kirkpatrick’s family members has said that Kirkpatrick “has been discharged and is doing okay, but still dealing with the effects of the smoke inhalation.”

Catherwood and Sukach also received treatment on the scene for inhalation of smoke and ABC fire extinguisher chemicals. Without the quick, professional response of these brave first responders, Kilpatrick would not have fared as well.

In addition to the BCSO, BSPD, and BSFD, the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Benton County Rescue Squad, and Emergency EMS also worked the accident.