Three Arlington firefighters are back at work after a wreck along Interstate 30 Saturday morning.
The Arlington Fire Department has a saying that “nothing good happens after midnight.”
“After midnight seems to be when the people who are impaired tend to be on the road,” said Arlington Fire Department Assistant Chief Bill McQuatters. “There’s a lot less traffic, so there’s really nothing to slow them down.”
Lt. Darren Smith and firefighters Joshua Underhill and Brandon Lockwood learned that the hard way when they responded to a crash along I-30.
“We heard [Lockwood] yell out that something was about to happen,” said Underhill.
They were sitting in their fire engine blocking off several lanes near the crash scene, when a suspected drunken driver slammed his sport utility vehicle into them.
“I braced myself and I know [Underhill] braced himself,” said Smith. “Just that split second of warning gave us the ability to protect ourselves as best as we could.”
Smith and Underhill – who was on his second-ever shift – escaped with some bumps and bruises. Both men are now back at work.
“I’m thankful that I have the ability to come back to work,” said Underhill. “Because I know if the circumstances were just a little bit different, then I wouldn’t be coming back to work.”
Lockwood wasn’t as lucky. He bore the brunt of the impact and is still recovering from the head injuries he sustained. Smith said it could have been a lot worse for him, though, had he not been wearing his seatbelt.
“I think that’s what prevented him from being ejected,” said Smith.
It’s not yet clear when Lockwood will be able to return to work.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with our injured firefighter,” said McQuatters.
They’re also dealing with the loss of their fire engine. Officials said it was so badly damaged, it may be beyond repair.
The department does have a fleet of reserve engines it can pull from to replace that engine in the meantime.
Smith and Underhill admit they’ve had to deal with nerves as they gone on their first few calls since the wreck. But they said they’re ready to put this behind them and continue serving the community they love.
“The first call our following shift was on the same highway relatively close to where the incident happened,” said Underhill. “I definitely felt a little hesitation. But it’s what we’re called to do. We put ourselves out there because lives are at stake.”
“If affects you, but you don’t let it affect your job,” said Smith.
The driver of the SUV, 28-year-old Hugo Veloz, has been charged with intoxicated assault with a vehicle.