Training led to successful rescue

Published 10:27 am Thursday, September 10, 2015

Photo by Kaitlin Mullins Rescue personnel work to remove 4-year-old Gabe Allbritton from a well Monday evening.

Photo by Kaitlin Mullins
Rescue personnel work to remove 4-year-old Gabe Allbritton from a well Monday evening.

It is said that being a firefighter is not all about fighting fires. Those familiar with the first responder lifestyle, or those who saw firemen in action at Monday’s well rescue, know this to be true.

Monday’s successful rescue was due in large part to the special training of local and area firefighters who could help lead efforts in the extraordinary circumstances.

While a handful of responders stayed glued to the top of the dry well 4-year-old Gabe Allbritton fell in Monday evening, many others regionally and locally were mobilizing to bring in the special skills and equipment needed for this type of rescue. The Southwest Regional Response Team, made up of firefighters from McComb, responded Monday with rope rescue skills among many others. A trenching team from Hattiesburg was also on the way in case they had to dig the boy out. People from all eight county volunteer fire departments, Brookhaven Fire Department and private contractors and members of the community responded to volunteer materials, time and efforts to the rescue.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The rope rescue was successful after much coaxing and coaching, using different knot and loop techniques to get Allbritton to understand and use the system responders rigged up. If it hadn’t been, however, Lincoln County Emergency Management Coordinator Clifford Galey said there was equipment and supplies on hand if trenching was required. This would have been an enormous effort that would have lasted well into the next day.

Chief of Zetus Volunteer Fire Department Dale Anding, like many others at the scene on Gene Road Monday, said the team effort was incredible to see. So many people throughout the area brought their special expertise and skills that evening, Anding said, and it was because of everyone there that the rescue was successful.

“We have some firefighters who also work for the city that have been to the State Fire Academy — Blake Wallace, Eric Smith — and we rely heavily on their knowledge to assist us,” Anding said. “We at Zetus are looking into doing some more rope rescue training since we had this incident Monday.”

Mark Porter of the Brookhaven Fire Department is one of two who are qualified to teach the specialized skill classes including rope rescue through the State Fire Academy, meaning they can teach the classes without sending people to Jackson. Porter said he brought a truck of plywood in case trenching was necessary to build a wall up each side of the trench to keep it from caving in. Porter and Anding both explained how there are many considerations with trenching, including above ground conditions of the surrounding area. Anding said they would’ve had to dig 10 to 15 feet away from the hole and work their way in, supporting the ground with wood as to not endanger the team or the little boy.

Brian Davis said he and Jonathan Alford with Zetus VFD were the first ones on the scene to find Allbritton screaming. Anding spent three hours on his stomach looking down at him, and said the support of other VFD members was especially needed during such a trying time. Anding said there was no shortage of anxiety or determination around the hole, and incredible relief when the boy was freed.

“I’ve been though a lot of stuff, but nothing like that,” Anding said. “We could not have done what we did without the other volunteers around us getting resources […] the Sheriff’s Department helping with crowd control — they were just as much a part of that rescue as the ones who pulled him out.”

Anding said the four or five guys who were around the hole working to pull the boy out couldn’t have done what they needed to without the support of all the other firefighters, private contractors, people of the community and those who brought excavators and backhoes. Anding said all were just as much as part of the success as the rescuers who pulled him out.