Friends of Bike Accident Victim Protest Response of Local Volunteer Fire Department
Posted August 30, 1999
RALEIGH — Their friend lay dying on a busy North Raleigh road. But there was no one around to offer medical help -- not even volunteer firefighters right across the street. Now, the victim's grieving friends want to know why.
"I just couldn't believe it happened. It felt like a dream," says a friend of Jeremy Phelps.
With tears and embraces, Phelps' friends gathered to remember his life where the 16-year-old died.
While crossing Louisburg Road Sunday evening on his bike, Jeremy was hit by a car and critically injured.
One of Jeremy's friends ran to get help and he did not have to go very far. The Wake-New Hope Fire Department is about 150 feet away.
Two volunteers at the station told the teenager they were not yet medically trained and said they could not help. By the time paramedics arrived moments later, it was too late.
Jeremy's friends, their grief combined with anger, turned his memorial into a demonstration because of New Hope's initial response. They then took their complaints to Chief Robert Pearce.
In a very heated exchange, Pearce explained that his volunteers immediately called 911. Trained paramedics got to the scene within seven minutes.
Under emergency protocol, the two volunteers could not administer aid themselves.
"They wanted to go. They couldn't go because they weren't trained to do more harm than good," said Pearce.
"Why couldn't they get there? They should have a little bit of training about how to help a kid. If they're volunteers, they should have it," said a group member.
"I don't say go over there and sew him up," said another group member. "I'm saying are you going to stop and tell em 'Hey, look, we've got an ambulance on the way, calm down. We're doing the best we can.'"
"I'm sorry for your loss, but there was nothing else we could do about it," Pearce told the group. "We don't have a paid staff 24 hours a day and we're not going to have one."
"They didn't even show concern, not any compassion," said another friend of the victim.
Another issue is jurisdiction. Because of district boundary lines, Pearce says his station would typically not have been called to respond to the scene -- even though it is so close.
As for the accident, police say the driver who hit Jeremy will not be charged. Reporter: Cullen Browder