CHARLESTON -- Kyle Keefer, fighter paramedic for the city Fire Department, received the Charleston Exchange Club Firefighter of the Year award Oct. 13.
Each year, the Charleston Exchange Club recognizes a firefighter voted by his peers as the Firefighter of the Year.
The Exchange Club is part of a national service organization with over 700 clubs and more than 20,000 members throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Locally it serves the community through sponsoring activities toward the prevention of child abuse and promoting patriotism.
Keefer was recognized for his actions May 2 while en route on Interstate 57 to Peoria for his Air National Guard commitment.
At roughly 5 a.m. two miles outside of Arcola driving northbound, Keefer said he noticed a semi-truck abruptly lock up its brakes, which he assumed was because of a blown tire. Black objects on the road ahead looked to be rubber from a tire.
Moving further down the road, Keefer noticed the “rubber” was, in fact, a man and a woman who were thrown from a motorcycle after an accident involving a deer. The man and woman lay on the road while the motorcycle and deer lay in the ditch.
Immediately, he stopped to check on the victims. Previous training and dealings with these kinds of accidents afforded him the ability to assess both of them.
After noticing that both were unresponsive, he quickly waved his arms, stopping any incoming traffic.
Keefer said once he was sure the traffic was stopped and safely away from the scene, he called 911, explaining exactly what was needed at the scene, speeding up the process to get care to the victims of the accident.
“I went ahead and started coordinating who we needed,” Keefer said.
From his assessment of the two victims, he said what equipment and supplies were needed at the scene, including two ambulances and likely a medical helicopter to fly one of the victims out.
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After first responders made it to the scene, Keefer directed what was needed for each person.
At that time, the female died due to the extent of her injuries.
“One thing that was frustrating for me was being a paramedic and knowing what I need to do and the equipment that I need to take care of them, but not being in my ambulance, (being) without any of my equipment,” he said.
Being the only one on scene initially, Keefer said, without his equipment, he was only able to do basic procedures to prevent further injury by making sure their heads and spines were not moving and controlling the bleeding.
Once the helicopter came, the man was airlifted to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. Keefer said the man is working on making a full recovery.
According to a press release, Keefer's quick response allowed responding units to focus on patient care rather than on having to take the time to coordinate resources and maintain traffic control.
He said he did not know whether his involvement saved the man’s life or not.
“I’d never come up on anything like that, except, of course, out on the ambulance, and you expect that,” Keefer said. “But when you are driving down the road, you don't expect to be the first person to pull up on an incident like that, especially on the interstate.”
Despite being recognized for his resolve during the incident, Keefer maintained that any good person, especially those like paramedics, firefighters or other service men and women, would have done the same thing he did.
“When they told me that I was getting awards for it, I didn't necessarily agree with (that),” Keefer said. “Anybody who was there and was put in that situation would have done the same thing.”