Lubbock Firefighters To Be Honored as Red Cross Champions - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

9/8/08

Lubbock Firefighters To Be Honored as Red Cross Champions

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We continue to honor every day citizens who help save lives. It's part of the Red Cross Champions Breakfast that will be held this Thursday. One of the awards to be handed out is not to one person, but the eight firefighters from Lubbock Fire Station 12.  

 911 Operator: "911?" Caller: "The tree trimmers in my backyard have an emergency."

Lubbock Fire Department Engine 12 pulled up to a home in the 4100 block of 63rd Drive just before 1:30 on May 20. The crew of four was first on the scene and initially told the victim had been electrocuted and was hanging in a tree.

"From the road we couldn't see anything inside to the house or anything like that or into the backyard," Lt. Buddy Davis said.  

Not knowing exactly what they had on their hands Davis says they headed around back. "Coming around here we were met by the occupant saying there's a guy in the tree and he's been electrocuted," Davis said.  

However, Davis says when his crew first walked into this backyard they did not see a victim. "We kinda were looking up and kept looking up and saw the young man. He was hanging on the limb right there facing kind of northwest," Davis said.

That day 20-year-old, Rocky Hilliard was trimming trees in the backyard. "His co-worker stated that he didn't have any tools with him that he lost his footing and when he grabbed for something to hold, he grabbed a hold of the power lines," Investigator Elliot Eldredge with the Lubbock Fire Marshal's Office said. 

"You got the 7,700 volts going through it right there and he grabbed the one on the far side," Davis said. 

An eyewitness says Hilliard held on to those power lines for at least four minutes, and fell at least 15 feet from the top of the tree. "He was lying unconscious with his arms and legs dapped over the limb and probably this far from the power lines," Firefighter Jon Wheeler said.

"His pulse was real erratic. He was bleeding from the mouth. You could tell he had burns on his hands," Davis explained.  Hilliard suffered third degree burns.

"They initially called heavy rescue but the paramedics on the scene said we didn't have time to set up any type of rescue," Davis added.

 As seconds ticked by, Engine 12 and Truck 12 worked to get Hilliard down to safety. "I went back to the engine to get a ground ladder and got that set up," Wheeler said.

Derek Cooper is one of two firefighters who climbed up to Hilliard. "We ended up having to cut some limbs just to get him around and back to our ladder," Cooper said.

"They took a rescue rope and tried it around the man's torso and sent it over a big branch," Wheeler added.

 As firefighters carried Hilliard down, EMS prepared to give aid. "They had the cot ready and we turned and just set him on the cot and EMS was gone with him in just a matter of seconds," Cooper said.

EMS rushed Hilliard to University Medical Center. Today, he is alive and sharing is story on his MySpace page. However, if it wasn't for the quick thinking of eight men and the medical care that soon followed, Hilliard may not have left the tree alive. "He's lucky to survive," Eldredge said. 

This story is the second of five people being profiled this week on NewsChannel 11. These five will be recognized on September 11th at a special Red Cross Champions Breakfast.

The Champions Breakfast kicks off at 7:30 Thursday morning, September 11, in the Civic Center Banquet Hall. The tickets are $25 each, and to reserve yours call the Red Cross Chapter Office at 765-8534.

Lubbock Red Cross
Learn more about the South Plains Regional Chapter of the American Red Cross.

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