PELHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A peer support group is assisting first responders who helped at the scene of a crash where 10 people were killed over the weekend in Greenville.
The crash happened Saturday on I-65. According to authorities, 17 vehicles were involved, seven of which caught fire. Nine children died, including eight who were on a van from a youth home for abused and neglected children.
Devastating crashes can be emotionally tough to handle, even for the emergency workers who respond. Former Pelham fire chief Tim Honeycutt said responders sometimes suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s why peer support groups, such as the one assisting the responders to the Greenville crash, are so important.
“Peer support is so critical, and I believe in it,” Honeycutt said. “I support it 100% and I’m very passionate about peer support for those first responders who are having a difficult time.”
The group is operated through the Alabama Fire College. It includes about 100 people– mostly former firefighters– who are trained on peer support. First responders can call members of the support group for assistance if they’re struggling mentally or emotionally. In some cases, the group reaches out to fire departments that have responded to devastating crashes.
Jim Terrell, one of the support group’s leaders, said the group has already begun holding group support sessions for first responders who assisted at the scene of the crash in Greenville. The group will provide one-one-one assistance, if needed.
Honeycutt has seen the support group’s impact in the past. In October 2018, four people were killed in a fiery crash on I-65 in Pelham. The group, which had organized only a few months prior, helped some of Honeycutt’s firefighters.
“My heart deeply goes out to those families that were involved in the wreck this weekend because I had a firsthand look at what happened in Pelham in 2018,” Honeycutt said.
Leaders of the group also plan to expand its efforts. Honeycutt said they want to include mental health segments in the initial training classes that first responders are required to take.
“They will actually have a segment on peer support and PTSD to help them understand things that they’re going to go through in their career and also things they need to look for in their fellow firefighters, law enforcement officers and telecommunicators,” he said.