In the early hours of Jan. 30, with a man’s life hanging in the balance in temperatures that hovered just above zero, a band of local first responders went into Batman mode.
Yesterday, those nine brave men were honored by Pulaski County Judge-Executive Barty Bullock and Pulaski Fiscal Court. Each first responder who helped save the life of the tanker truck driver that morning at Sloans Valley received a Medal of Valor and the Lifesaving Medal.
“What we don’t realize is that these men put their lives in danger all the time to help others,” said Bullock. “We appreciate what they did at Sloans Valley. And we appreciate what they do every day in Pulaski County.”
First responders were called before 5 a.m. Jan. 30 to the site of an accident on South U.S. 27 at Sloans Valley.
A Cumberland Lake Shell gasoline tanker had overturned approximately six miles south of Burnside and gone over a 36-foot embankment.
The driver, Lucas Gregory, 24, of Whitley City, told responders that he had swerved to miss an animal and the tanker caught the guardrail, causing him to go over the hill, according to Daniel Karriker, assistant chief of the Somerset-Pulaski County Rescue Squad.
The truck ended up on its top, perched precariously on top of a cluster of trees that it had knocked over. The tanker full of gas presented a hazardous scenario — the possibility of an explosion.
Meanwhile, gasoline was pouring out from the ruptured tanker and pooling underneath the truck, in some places a couple of feet deep. The tanker lost its entire 8,250 gallon load.
The first responders plunged over a large embankment and into 2-to-3 feet of standing gasoline to facilitate the extrication of the trapped driver.
“I saw a bunch of guys do something that was completely heroic,” said Baker, chief of the Somerset-Pulaski County Special Response Team (Hazmat), and captain of the local rescue squad organization. “They went above and beyond.”
The rescue of Gregory took nearly an hour and responders had to brave the frigid weather conditions and ignore the cold as water and fire retardant foam was sprayed all over them.
“(Pulaski County Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson) and the guys went under that truck, lying in gasoline, in 4 degree weather, being sprayed with water and foam, and stayed under there for about 45 minutes cutting the guy out,” said Baker. “In my whole career, I’ve never seen anything like that.”
During yesterday’s fiscal court meeting, the following first responders were honored: Robinson, Karriker, Capt. Steve M. Woods, Capt. Ryan H. Hughes and Lt. Gary W. Murch of the Pulaski County Rescue Squad and the Pulaski County Special Response Team; Assistant Chief Keith G. Price of the Pulaski County Rescue Squad and the Parkers Mill Fire Department; Firefighter Bryan J. West of the Somerset Fire Department; and Firefighters Frank F. Jones and David A. Coffey of the Tateville Fire Department.
“I’ve been doing this for 26 years, and I’ve never seen anything like what these men did to save this man’s life,” said Duffy Sutton of Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement.
“The first responders in Pulaski County are second to none,” added Pulaski County Sheriff Todd Wood.
Gregory was airlifted to the University of Kentucky Medical Center with serious injuries. But he survived the ordeal thanks to the effort of his rescuers.
“I was just glad to be a part of it,” said Robinson. “(Gregory) is at home with his family today and I’m tickled to death that we were able to make that happen.”