As Capt. Charles Smith and his crew were on their way to a serious crash, a 911 dispatcher told them that people had been ejected from a car.
Minutes later, they learned that one of those people was a baby.
It had already been an emotionally trying week for the crew. A couple of shifts ago, the team had to pull out two people from a burning building. One didn’t survive, while the other was sent to a hospital burn unit.
“You get sick in your stomach about it because nobody wants to deal with that,” Smith, of the Texarkana Fire Department in Arkansas, told The Washington Post.
Smith braced for the worst.
Traffic on eastbound Interstate 30 in Texarkana was heavy when the firetruck arrived, so Smith and other firefighters got out and ran toward the crash, which happened around 7 p.m. Friday. The driver’s side of a four-door car, which was clipped by an 18-wheeler as it was changing lanes, was mangled.
One of the passengers of the car was the infant’s mother, who was very distraught, screaming that her baby was missing, Smith said.
Smith and Moore began looking around the grassy median, sifting through the loose grass that appeared to have just been cut. Then they heard the sound of a baby. It wasn’t a cry, Smith said, “just baby noise.”
About 3o feet from the roadway was a storm drain with three-inch steel pipes across it, Smith said. They looked down and saw the little girl just sitting there, at least two feet down, calm and looking up at them.
The two firefighters and the bystander worked to pull the girl up, turning her body a certain way to get her through the bars, Smith said. They checked her for injuries, but found only a small scratch on her forehead.
“There had to be some kind of divine intervention for her to end up being OK the way she was,” Moore told KSLA News.
The baby’s mother, Jakesia Colson, told KSLA News that she believes it was a miracle that her daughter, 8-month-old Bryce Hale, is alive.
“I started running up and down the highway looking everywhere for her, calling her name,” she said. “I didn’t hear a baby crying, no baby screaming, nothing. I panicked. I thought she was gone. It was the worst 15 minutes of my life trying to look for her.”
Smith said the driver of the 18-wheeler was not hurt and was cited for improper and unsafe lane change.
None of the four other occupants of the car, all from Hope, Ark., were seriously injured. The Texarkana Police Department said that the baby’s car seat, which was found outside the vehicle, was not properly installed, and the child was not properly restrained, according to KSLA News. The family did not comment to the TV station about the car seat. They were not cited.
Smith has been a firefighter for nearly 30 years. He said the incident was unlike anything he has ever experienced.
“This is probably one of the best outcomes. This couldn’t have come at a better time. We needed a positive to back up all the negative we’ve seen in the recent shifts,” he said.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Kristine Guerra