On February 3, 2020, a gruesome car accident occurred along MacArthur Road in Coppell.
After hitting a curb, his car flew 40 feet. Then a collision with the median sent him airborne once again. The car tore through several trees. Then through a brick wall.
The driver was found impaled, with a large tree trunk deeply wedged through the center of his chest.
And yet, the driver, Dexter Childs, lives, thanks to the quick action taken by the Coppell Fire Department.
When firefighters arrived on scene, it looked as if this would be a fatality accident. However, emergency crews quickly realized that Childs was still alive, despite the four-inch diameter tree trunk protruding through the windshield and into the center of his chest.
Critical decisions had to be made within seconds, and the extensive and rigorous training that Coppell firefighter/paramedics perform regularly enabled them to swiftly take lifesaving action.
Several firefighter/paramedics held the branch steady to reduce vibrations as the branch was cut to remove the patient from the vehicle.
A portion of the tree remained in Childs as he was transported to the emergency room. The other portion of the tree was brought back to Coppell Fire Station 3 for evaluation during debriefing. In the event that they ever faced a similar situation, firefighters wanted to ensure that they used the correct tools to cut the trunk. Therefore, they made several other cuts on the trunk to determine the best way to reduce vibration and patient discomfort.
Childs and his family visited the Coppell Fire Department on the one-year anniversary of the accident to express their gratitude for the assistance he received.
“We lost this kid, and you guys saved him,” recalled Childs’s father in an emotional and heartfelt speech. “You all made some terrific decisions along the way, and I’m just so amazed and thankful. Your quick thinking saved his life.”
Childs himself shared that he and his wife, Jessica, plan to buy a house and start a family in the near future, and he reflected on what could have been.
“I wouldn’t have this life if it wasn’t for you all. I was gone. I wouldn’t be here today without you,” he said.
The horrific accident and emotional reunion a year later left an impact not only on Childs and his family, but also on the Coppell Fire Department. When not responding to emergency calls, Coppell firefighters – who are also all trained paramedics – are frequently engaged in training exercises, and this incident makes it clear that these efforts pay off. In addition to the paramedic certification that all Coppell firefighters received, many are also certified to provide more advanced critical care. The knowledge of the first responders was key in providing the lifesaving efforts.
“This was not only a life changing event for him, but for the department as well,” said Division Chief Tim Russell. “It’s a perfect example of how dedication to training paid off. I’m proud of how our staff responded and made great decisions within seconds.”
The reunion offered not only a chance for the family to thank the department and reflect, but a time to celebrate the outcome as well. Childs, curious about the details of his experience, asked the firefighters what kind of saw was used. “Oh, just a DeWalt sawzall. You can buy one at Home Depot!” responded the firefighter who made the cut.
Thank you to Dexter Childs and his family for allowing us to tell their story.