How first responders cope after tragedy - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

How first responders cope after tragedy

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
POOLER, GA (WTOC) -

Five people died on Interstate 16 Wednesday morning after a head-on collision near the Pooler Parkway exit.

A tragedy like this affects more than just those who knew these victims. It also takes a toll on those who are first to the scene, like first responders.

WTOC spoke to experts about how these firefighters, police and EMS are able to do their job and cope with what they are seeing.

Usually it's not when they are in the moment doing their job on scene. It’s the days after that they start to realize just how it's impacting them.

Officials from the International Association of Firefighters said there's a program called the "coming out of the shadows." It's an initiative that helps with post-traumatic stress disorder and all of the stressors that come with being a firefighter.

Firefighters are encouraged to seek these services after being on the scene of a traumatic event, like Wednesday’s major crash on I-16.

This was the third major crash on I-16 in the last year. A total of 15 people have died.

The president of the Savannah Firefighters Association said he can relate to what those first responders are dealing with.

"Those memories will always be present, but I think what you do is, you know that you did what you could. You did the best you could, and in some instances, you made life better for other people,” Savannah Firefighters Association President Bob Milie said.

Sometimes these scenes can be so overwhelming that help is called in for these first responders while they are on the scene.

Southside Fire Department has a chaplain who goes out to scenes to help anyone there who may be having trouble emotionally.

He said that his primary job is just to go out to these scenes to listen and be an ear for someone who just needs to talk through and process what they are dealing with.

He hopes many of the folks who were out on the scene Wednesday took Thursday off to do something other than work, something positive like hanging out with family, friends or going to the movies

He said it's important that first responders give themselves time to cope because they will live with these events the rest of their lives.

"If I had gotten here sooner could I have stopped it? Could I have saved one of them? Those questions go through your mind. Did I do everything I could do for these people? And those don't go away after they get to the hospital and drop the patient off. Those may go one for several days after," Southside Fire Chaplain Dale Simmons said.

These guys are often the last one to see someone alive and so many family members will come by and want to know if their loved one said anything or if they were in pain.

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