Observers Proclaim Crockett Firefighters 'True Heroes'
By Lynda Jones
A Frankston man is in Parkland Hospital in Dallas recovering from a harrowing experience in downtown Crockett Wednesday afternoon, June 4.
Richard Watson, 63, is an insurance adjuster who was attempting to inspect damage to a roof when he made contact twice with a high voltage electrical wire above the building.
The insurance company reportedly no longer allows its adjusters to use extension ladders, so Watson was in an elevated cage above the roof. Witnesses said that as Watson stood up, his head made contact with the live wire that reportedly was carrying about 7,200 volts of electricity.
One eyewitness said she saw flames shoot up as Watson made contact. Another eyewitness reported the bucket actually made the first contact.
A third eyewitness reported she saw an orange and red glow, like the sun, around Watson and then he began shaking.
At one point Watson fell, drawing screams from the crowd of onlookers that had gathered on the east side lawn of the Houston County Courthouse. foot and lower leg apparently caught on one of the bars of the cage, preventing him from falling all the way down to the concrete ground below, but leaving him suspended upside down until Crockett volunteer firefighters could reach him and pull him back into the cage.
Before the firefighters could get to the man, the power in the live wire had to be shut off.
Personnel from the Houston County Electric Cooperative came and turned off the power while waiting for Oncor to arrive.
When it was safe to do so, three firefighters made their way up from Ladder 1. According to witness reports, Watson had received two jolts of potentially deadly electricity. It appeared that at least one jolt exited out the lower part of one of Watson's legs.
Onlookers said they feared for the man's life and they feared for the lives of the firefighters who rescued him. There was concern that any or all of them could fall out of the cage while they were stablizing Watson and securing him to the sled that would carry him down the ladder.
As they all reached the ground, onlookers cheered and applauded. Watson was transferred onto a stretcher and into a waiting ETMC EMS ambulance that took him to the helio-pad outside ETMC Crockett. He was flown directly to the hospital in Dallas for treatment of his burns.
Watson was upgraded from Critical to Serious Condition Thursday afternoon, but he remains in ICU. Current reports suggest Watson's injuries are not as severe as first thought, that there was no apparent muscle damage and the burns to his face are superficial. Sources say Watson is "progressing remarkably".
Ellen McCreight, who owns the business with the roof damage, has stayed in contact with Mark Taylor, who is in Dallas. Taylor is Watson's regional supervisor, she explained.
McCreight relayed a message from Taylor. She said Taylor wants to thank everybody in Crockett, including the CVFD, all other responders and the business owners for all of their work during the rescue.
Agencies, businesses and officials responding to the scene, in addition to the fire department, included the Crockett Police Department, the Houston County Sheriff's Office, ETMC EMS, Culpepper Electric, Houston County Electric Cooperative, Oncor, Constable Precinct 2, Houston County Judge Erin Ford and Crockett City Councilman Chris Gunnels.
As the crowd dispersed, onlookers declared the Crockett firefighters were true heroes during the crisis.
One said she was going to go home and bake cookies to take to the CVFD on Thursday. She also suggested a fundraiser so the fire department can purchase an inflatable landing device to catch someone if they are not so lucky in the future and fall.