Friday, March 16, 2018

Honoring fallen firefighter Dave Good

I wanted to see the memorial set up for David J. Good at Lionville Fire Company in his gear locker. Despite how often I drive past the firehouse on the job, I had never stopped. I saw it on the 20-year anniversary of his line of duty death.

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar - Daily Local News
A memorial for fallen firefighter David J. Good is set-up in his  gear locker at Lionville Fire Company. 

I reported on the plaque dedication and memorial service in the area overlooking the Pennsylvania Turnpike where a tractor trailer lost control, struck and killed him and injured nine other first-responders who were assisting at a vehicle accident on March 9, 1998.

“This memorial plaque will help remind us and help educate younger generations of what a real sacrifice is. Being a firefighter has inherent dangers,” Lionville Fire Chief William Minahan said. “Until 1998 we weren’t really aware of the dangers on the highways. We had no idea this could happen, and to have 10 guys get run over, (including) one guy killed, it was just horrific.”

Photo by Ginger Rae Dunbar
A plaque honoring fallen Lionville firefighter David J. Good was dedicated on the 20-year anniversary on March 9, 2018. 

While I was there on the anniversary as a journalist, I felt like I was there for so much more than that to honor him because of his sacrifice and because of the pain that followed. When first-responders go out to help, we want to go home too.

The whole time first-responders operate on a busy highway or roadway, we remain observant and aware of the traffic passing by. We are also careful when we return to the trucks and restore equipment. I remember one day when we cleared at a vehicle accident on I-95, we walked back to the truck together and had to watch out for a driver who seemed to ignore us. Everyone had on their safety traffic vests and we walked in line together. Our driver had stopped traffic for us to cross the road to get back to the truck, but we noticed a driver looking on the vehicle accident instead of focusing on the traffic ahead of him. As I started to verbalize to the crew to stop and wait, many of the crew members said the same to protect us. One of the senior members used as a learning opportunity to remind us to stay alert and watch out for drivers who may not be looking out for us on the road.

When I’m operating on the roadways as a firefighter, and even when I’m on the road reporting, I use situational awareness to stay safe. I keep what happened to David Good in the back of my mind. I was in third grade at the time he died, but remembering Good and hearing what happened to him can help us learn. A firefighter told me because of that day, at every accident they look for the shoulder of the road, medians, grassy areas and other spots to move to in a hurry to get out of harm’s way.

We watched a documentary in one of my firefighter training classes about this incident and many of the Lionville firefighters told their story. It was emotional listening to them recount what happened. The instructor warned us that the line of duty death may hit home for us because Downingtown isn’t far away. While I knew the details before we watched the documentary, it hit home because I report on news in Downingtown.

This line of duty death changed how firefighters responded to emergencies on the turnpike and on all highways nationwide. The changes include high-visibility traffic vests, advanced warning signs and the “move-over” laws to provide more space for those operating at a roadway incident. The move over and slow down law applies to any stopped emergency vehicle on the roadway, including law enforcement, fire, EMS, tow trucks and Department of Transportation. It’s almost amazing that we didn’t have traffic vests available to us then, but now we have one on the truck for every firefighter.

After the plaque was unveiled by then-Assistant Chief Steve Senn, one of the firefighters injured during that incident, I heard that two firefighters I know had responded to help the injured firefighters. It’s something that they will never forget, and my hope is that first-responders won’t forget the implemented changes to prevent more losses.

“The Lionville incident changed the way we operate on the Route 30 Bypass today,” said Westwood Battalion Chief John Sly, who responded to help the Lionville firefighters. “It probably has saved my life.”

Mine too.

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