In the tight-knit communities served by electric cooperatives, there’s often a perception that “everyone knows each other.”
That was the case earlier this month in Fayetteville, North Carolina, when line crews from South River EMC helped stabilize a woman injured in a head-on collision with a pickup truck. That rescue team included the victim’s brother-in-law of nine years.
Jennifer Lambert, 29, suffered multiple fractures in her arm and leg after her SUV was hit head-on May 3 by the driver of a Ford pickup truck attempting a left-hand turn at an intersection, according to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
Crews from the Dunn-based co-op were working on repairs across the street when they witnessed the crash. They shut down the job, grabbed first-aid kits and rushed to the chaotic scene, where Lambert was trapped in her car, unconscious.
“Car horns were blaring, and we thought she was dead at first,” said Tom Carter, a crew foreman. “Her arm was bleeding heavily, and a bone was exposed.”
During the flurry of activity, crew member Seth Lambert didn’t recognize his sister-in-law at first. “But once things started slowing down. I realized it was her,” he said. “It definitely felt more serious knowing the person, but I just wanted to let my brother know ASAP.”
He called 911 and then his brother, Ashton, who arrived just before emergency crews. In the meantime, the South River EMC team, which also included Derek Avery, Austin Britt and Kaleb Barnhill, made a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Once the victim regained consciousness, they kept her still. They also cut the wire to silence the car horn.
Jennifer Lambert was airlifted twice to hospitals in Fayetteville and then Raleigh, where she was released May 7. The truck driver had minor injuries, according to the state highway patrol.
Despite the dramatic situation, the crew was well-prepared to help. South River EMC trains all employees in first aid and CPR/AED defibrillator use. In addition, lineworkers attend weekly safety meetings and review safety measures before each job, said Cathy O’Dell, the co-op’s vice president of member services and public relations.
A day after the crash, the co-op posted a message on its Facebook page from Ashton Lambert, the victim’s husband. “A genuine thank you to all the guys that jumped to action instead of standing around from me and my wife. What they did will never be forgotten.”
Jennifer Lambert, who works as a 911 dispatcher, is currently recovering at home in Fayetteville and likely faces weeks of physical therapy. Just before the accident, she noticed the co-op crews working on the side of the road. Little did she know that they would be her rescuers minutes later.
“I’m grateful for that entire team, and from what I understand, they arrived quickly to see how they could help. They saw I was unconscious and bleeding,” she said. “If it wasn’t for all of them, I don’t know what would’ve happened. They all did an amazing job.”
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.