POWHATAN – Powhatan County came too close Wednesday to feeling the pain recently experienced in Hanover County when a car struck an occupied fire and rescue vehicle on Route 288 in Powhatan as it was responding to an accident.
Fire and Rescue Chief Steven Singer had just gotten back into his command vehicle after responding to an accident where a car hit a deer when another approaching vehicle struck his vehicle and proceeded to overturn.
The incident started around 5 a.m., when Powhatan County Fire and Rescue units were dispatched to a single-vehicle accident involving a deer strike in the northbound lane of Route 288 near Huguenot Trail, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page. The initial accident resulted in no injuries.
An engine company, a medic unit, and a command vehicle, along with multiple law enforcement units, were in the process of clearing up when a vehicle traveled past the blocking engine and stuck the stationary Ford Explorer with Powhatan Fire and EMS that was occupied by Singer. The Ford Explorer was located in the left lane with its emergency lights activated.
The oncoming vehicle, a 2001 Chevrolet four-door, was driven by Adrian Phillingame, 61, of North Chesterfield. It was traveling northbound and struck the Ford Explorer in the rear, resulting in Phillingame's vehicle overturning in a median on the left side of the roadway, according to a release from Sgt. Keeli Hill, public information officer for the Virginia State Police, which is investigating the crash.
Singer was transported to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries. He is reported to be sore but otherwise unharmed.
Phillingame’s vehicle rolled several times and the driver had to be extricated by firefighters and then transported to the hospital for treatment of serious injuries.
Phillingame was charged with reckless driving.
Had the accident occurred only a few minutes earlier, when the firefighters were still working the scene, it could have been much worse as several of them were standing nearby, said Brigid Paciello, communications and IT specialist for Powhatan County.
The incident was especially disturbing to local firefighters because it came close on the heels of a loss in Hanover County in a similar situation. Lt. Brad Clark, a Hanover firefighter, was fatally struck along Interstate 295 while responding to a crash during Tropical Storm Michael.
“I think it really hit home. I know several of the firefighters that were on scene actually worked with the firefighter from Hanover, Lt. Clark,” Paciello said. “They are always on heightened alert anyway when they are out there on an interstate, but having worked with him and knowing him so well, it heightened their alert a little bit more. It really upped the scariness of it knowing that that had just happened. Literally if this had been moments before, there would have been five people standing there outside of vehicles.”
People are reminded that if they see flashing lights, whether it is law enforcement, road workers, fire and rescue, or even a tow truck, oncoming drivers need to move over and give them space, she said.
“They are out there doing a job,” she said.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.