Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Off-duty rescuer's care goes above, beyond

  • By
  • | 4:00 a.m. June 9, 2010
  • East County
  • News
  • Share

MANATEE COUNTY — Lakewood Ranch resident Betsy Roig was taking her son to school May 26 when her vehicle collided with another car at more than 30 mph.

Shocked at what just happened, Roig first was worried for the safety of her son, Matthew, and also that the impact may have aggravated an old injury.

Moments later, help arrived. A man checked Roig and Matthew for visible injuries and waited for paramedics and other emergency services workers to come.

“All I could hear was people around me,” Roig said. “A very sweet man offered to (take my son to school). He even went that far to say, ‘I’ll get him for you (after school, if you need).’

“It was a huge relief,” Roig said. “You have your child right there and you are on your way to the emergency room.”

As the ambulance rolled away, 7-year-old Matthew climbed into the vehicle of Lee Whitehurst, deputy chief of administration for East Manatee Fire Rescue, who transported him to Braden River Elementary.

“I got to hold his (fireman’s) hat,” Matthew said. “He helped me not worry (about my mom) as much.”

Whitehurst was on his way to the office when he passed the crash. After assessing the situation and agreeing with Roig that she needed to see a doctor, Whitehurst waited for the ambulance and offered to take Matthew, who suffered no injuries, to school. He even called the school that afternoon to make sure Matthew had a ride home.

“We called the school because we were getting to a point with people coming and going for lunch and wanted to make sure it didn’t slip through the cracks,” Whitehurst said.

Whitehurst downplayed his role, adding any member of the East Manatee Fire Rescue team would have done the same.

“This is certainly not the first time we have done something besides fighting fires and medical assistance to help our residents,” Whitehurst said. “We’ve come across people with flat tires and broken-down vehicles — all kinds of things — in our travels as East Manatee Fire Rescue members.”

Still, Roig and the Braden River community are amazed by Whitehurst’s actions.

“He went so far beyond the call of duty, it’s amazing,” Braden River Principal Randy Mungillo said. “That’s what we aspire for our kids, for our students. It’s a good lesson for even us as adults. We can do that as well.”

Whitehurst said it’s a customer service-type philosophy carried over from the district’s first paid fire chief, Henry Sheffield.

“He always led by example,” Whitehurst said. “It rubbed off on all of us. These types of little customer-service issues are well ingrained in what we do.”

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].


Latest News