WATERLOO IA March 1 2017 – Chandler Cole and Dakota George were sitting in a school bus Feb. 9 waiting to leave for a basketball game at Courtland when they saw a car about to hit the Waterloo High School building.
“I stood up and saw the car going across the sidewalk (where students were) and then hit the building,” George said.
“We just reacted, and we came out the emergency door at the back of the bus,” Cole said.
When they got to the car, the first thing the students saw was 9-year-old Georgiana Kavich lying underneath the car.
The boys, both in the Explorer program of the Waterloo Volunteer Fire Department, immediately started trying to help Kavich.
“She was breathing and was conscious, but she was out of it. I don’t think she really knew what was going on,” said Cole, a junior at Waterloo.
George, a senior, said after checking Kavich, they started the task of trying to get her out from underneath the car. She was lying in a small ditch, which made removal easier.
“We knew we had to get her out to be able to stabilized her and see exactly how bad she was hurt,” George said. “So, we carefully started pulling her out.”
In most instances people are told not to move victims, but Blake Hargett, operations manager for Shoals Ambulance, said in this case the teens did exactly what needed to be done.
“She was under the car. It could have easily shifted or moved, and if that happened it could have been a lot worse,” Hargett said. “Most of the time you don’t want someone to move the victim. They were trained and knew what they needed to do.”
The car also knocked down a support pole causing the awning it was supporting to hit a teacher on the head and damaged a propane gas line going into the school. As soon as the students finished getting the girl out from under the car, George jumped up, ran to the school building and turned off the leaking propane tank.
“I didn’t know where he was going and what he was doing,” Cole said. “I’m glad he was thinking about that gas leak.”
Moments later, members of the volunteer fire department, including the girl's grandfather, Ted Kavich, who is the fire chief and an EMT, arrived and started giving her medical attention.
“She was in critical condition and those guys stabilized her, which was vital to her well-being,” Hargett said.
He said after paramedics arrived, they continued advance life care. Air Evac arrived right behind the ambulance and the girl was flown to Huntsville Hospital.
Emergency personnel said the girl sustained a damaged spleen, a broken collarbone and a punctured lung. She was later taken to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham where she stayed until Feb. 24 before coming home.
She is recuperating, resting and exercising her broken collarbone on her own. The only sign of her injuries is the sling she wears to keep her arm stabilized to protect her collarbone.
“I don’t remember what they did, but I appreciate it,” said Georgiana, a fourth-grader at Waterloo. “I’m sure glad they were there.”
Ted Kavich said he was proud to see the two members of the fire department’s Explorer program use the training they had receive.
“From firefighting to medical, they get the same training as the adult firefighters do. The only thing they can’t do is go into a burning house or building,” the chief said of the Explorers.
He said George and Cole are dedicated and have put in the time and effort to become good firefighters. Cole was honored as Explorer of the Year by the Lauderdale County Volunteer Fire Association.
George has been in the program for two years, while Cole is in his fourth year.
Hargett and other members of Shoals Ambulance recently visited a meeting of the Waterloo fire department to present the two boys with gift certificates and other gifts to show their appreciation for what they did the day of the wreck.
“They did all the right things at the right time,” Hargett said.
George said he and Cole take being an Explorer seriously, trying to always do their best.
“It happened and we reacted,” he said.
“There was a sense of urgency," Cole said. "There was a life on the line, and we did what we had been trained to do.”
Cole said once they were back on the bus heading to the basketball game, he thought about what happened. He wondered if they had done everything they should have and, more importantly, he wondered if the young girl was going to be OK.
“That afternoon, they knew what to do,” Ted Kavich said. “They knew to stabilize her, and they knew to look for utilities and get them cut off. They were thinking; they were using their training.
"When I see something like this, I’m proud of the young men we are training.”