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Remembrances and change in 2 years since January 11th first responder crash

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 5:22 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2022 at 11:47 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Tuesday will mark two years since the January 11, 2020 crash that killed Lubbock Police Officer Nicholas Reyna, Lubbock Fire Rescue Lieutenant Eric Hill and critically injured Firefighter Matt Dawson.

“As a chief, it’s one of your worst nightmares,” Lubbock Police Chief Floyd Mitchell said. “One of the worst scenarios that you can think of is to lose one of the men and women who wear the badge, who put it on, go out there to serve their public.”

The first responders were working the scene of an icy crash on North I-27, right on the Lubbock city limits, when a vehicle came across the median and struck them.

“The kind of wreck that it was, was not something that happens very frequently, someone coming from the opposite lanes of travel across a median,” Lubbock Fire Rescue Chief Shaun Fogerson said. “It’s not something we ever focused on, because we’d never seen it. We came to realize that it is a possibility that that can happen so we had to completely change the way we went about traffic safety and scene safety.”

Over the past two years the agencies have collaborated to make changes to save lives. Fogerson said the first was to shut down opposite lanes of travel at a crash scene.

“We changed our blocking schemes, our communication with the other disciplines on the scene, whether it’s PD, EMS, Fire, the tow truck companies, animal control, whatever type of public servant is out there,” Fogerson said. “We have to communicate among all of us so that everybody’s on the same page so that we’re blocking all possible routes for someone to run into one of our responders. We’ve changed the safety gear that we wear. The firefighters wear special helmets now that are better equipped and better adapted to the type of impact they would face.”

LFR has also recently installed the HAAS Alert System to notify the public of scenes through the Waze app. According to HAAS Alert, the alerts will now also be delivered directly to millions of connected Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Chrysler, and Alfa Romeo vehicles through Stellantis’ new Emergency Vehicle Alert System feature.

“We’re thankful for the these changes,” Mark Hill, father of Lt. Hill and founder of 5-5-5 Safety, said. “You look back on that and the hurt and the pain, you don’t want anything to happen but when when things like this occur, we’re thankful to both LFR and PD for making those changes and stepping in and doing those things to make it safer for the guys that are still out there working those wrecks and doing those things.”

Hill is asking the public to take part in a remembrance initiative by turning on porch lights through January 11. Of course, he’s also asking you to slow down.

“We just want to remember those guys, remember the things that that happened that day but we also want them to think about slowing down and doing things to drive safely,” Hill said.

That includes taking action to keep anyone safe on our roadways.

“When you see an emergency responder or a highway worker, just slow down, move over,” Chief Mitchell said. “That’s the important piece, give yourself space in case you have to take evasive action because the person in front of you didn’t do it. Just move over and slow down.”

Keep in mind, moving over or slowing down is the law in Texas.

“Every person you see out there working on the roadway, whether it’s a police officer, firefighter, road worker, tow truck driver, these are stories,” Fogerson said. “Everybody has a family. These are sons, daughters, brothers, be cognizant of that and know that the actions you take can let their story continue. If you’re not careful, then you can end their story right there.”

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