The Day We Will Never Forget
On May 15, 2021 Captain Kyle Bishop and Firefighter Derrick Norton were a part of a group salvaging a barn in a rural area of Darlington County, South Carolina. The salvage was for Piece of Work, a business co-owned by Les Baker and Jacob Stafford which constructs home furnishings from reclaimed material. Also present were Tradd O’Donald and Lamar Baker, Les’s father. The barn was a two-story tobacco packing barn built circa 1930 with an extended shed off both sides and the rear. On Friday May 14th, Les and Tradd removed the two side sheds and the roof with an extendable forklift. The following morning the day began with removing exterior siding and second floor flooring. The rear shed was left intact to help support the main structure during the process.
Throughout the demolition process there was communication occurring to ensure the safety of the team. There did not appear to be any structural compromise to the rear shed and everyone felt confident in the condition of the structure. Les and Lamar had a brief conversation to make sure that Lamar was in a safe location where there was no risk of being injured by debris falling from the second floor, which resulted in Lamar deciding to stay at the rear of the building to look through material.
Several minutes later the rear shed separated from the main barn and collapsed. Les hollered frantically for Lamar twice without a response before everyone on the second floor made eye contact and immediately knew there was an emergency at hand. Captain Bishop jumped off the second floor to the ground, while Firefighter Norton, Tradd and Les went down the interior stairwell and out the side. They quickly made their way to where Lamar was trapped because they could hear him tapping on the metal roof covering that was crushing him.
Captain Bishop was the first to spot him and immediately climbed underneath the roof. Lamar was sitting on the ground and bent over double with his head almost between his knees. Firefighter Norton climbed underneath the sloped roof, laid on his back and leg pressed the shed up as much as possible to relieve some of the pressure trapping Lamar under the structure. After the fact, Lamar said he was taking what felt like his last breath before feeling that relief.
By that time Tradd called 911 and Les arrived with the lift to raise the shed up enough to allow Lamar to move into a supine position. Firefighter Norton put concerns for his own safety aside and selflessly directed the forklift right beside his head. Les was relying on him completely as he was unable to see the forks himself. From the position in the lift, Les had very grim thoughts. Throughout his career he has seen many people dead on arrival and just as many that died later from multi-system trauma. Lamar looked blue, pale, and near death.
The group collectively moved Lamar to a piece of plywood while maintaining C-Spine protocols and removed him from underneath the debris. Captain Bishop took control of the medical treatment and ensured everyone was doing what was necessary. Clothing was utilized to further stabilize him on the plywood. After an initial survey, it was determined the main concern was pelvic instability and towels were used to wrap the pelvic area and provide pressure. Shortly after emergency personnel began to arrive and care was transferred to Darlington County EMS. Les rode with EMS while Captain Bishop, Firefighter Norton, and Tradd secured all the personal belongings.
City of Charleston firefighters hold themselves to a high standard of service, but these men exceeded expectations on that morning. Without conducting any type of risk/benefit analysis, Captain Bishop and Firefighter Norton sprung to action and put their own lives on the line by climbing underneath the unstable debris. Then, they held the shed up enough to allow Lamar to breathe. After he was removed, they calmly and effectively utilized their training to provide expert medical treatment. Currently Lamar is recovering well from a pelvic fracture, which could have been much worse had these men not been present. Their immediate and selfless actions saved Lamar’s life. They should be commended for their efforts at the highest degree.