Chris Garrish (left) and Michael Moon rely on training and instincts to save a life
(Jefferson, Ga., Nov. 14, 2016) — Two Jackson Electric Membership Corp. (EMC) employees have been recognized for extinguishing a truck fire and extricating the badly injured driver from the vehicle before it could explode.
Jefferson resident Chris Garrish, an engineer with Jackson EMC’s Engineering & Operations Department, and Gainesville resident Michael Moon, a journeyman lineman with the co-op’s Jefferson District, received Life Saving Awards from Georgia Electric Membership Corp. (Georgia EMC) today during the state association’s annual meeting in Savannah.
On Nov. 5, 2015, Garrish was being treated for a sore back at his chiropractor’s office when a tractor-trailer rammed into a passenger truck nearby, at the intersection of Highways 124 and 53 in Braselton. When the office secretary called 911 to report the accident and subsequently announced that the smaller truck was on fire and the driver was trapped inside, “All of a sudden, instinct kicked in, and it was telling me, ‘Do something,’” recalls Garrish.
It turns out that instinct was formed in Garrish’s childhood. “I got burned at a really young age when I was a kid, and I guess I’ve always had this fear of somebody burning to death,” he says.
Garrish left the chiropractor’s table, ran to the front door and saw the truck engulfed in flames. “So I asked the secretary, ‘Do y’all have another fire extinguisher?’ And she said ‘I don’t know.’ So I ran back through the building, looking in every room, and when I turned the corner into this little lunchroom space, there was a fire extinguisher sitting on the floor,” Garrish recalls. He took it and ran toward the fire. “It was kind of surreal. I didn’t have any fear of being burned. I was just thinking, ‘Let’s get this guy out.’”
When the tractor-trailer hit the passenger’s side of the truck, it ignited the fuel tank, and the flames were shooting up through the driver’s side door. “I didn’t know exactly where the flames were coming from but I knew he was literally getting flames on him, so I sprayed him, and then finally figured out that the flames were coming from the underside of the truck,” Garrish says. “So we got the flames knocked down enough that people could try and remove him from the truck.”
However, the boy’s seat belt was still was fastened. Enter Michael Moon, who was in his Jackson EMC vehicle at the intersection’s red light and witnessed the accident.
“They needed someone with a knife, and I happened to have a knife so I used it to cut the seat belt,” Moon says. It took Moon a couple of attempts, but he managed to sever the belt. “If something like that had happened to me, I’d want somebody to do what they could to get me out of there, too.”
Moon and another man carried the boy about 30 yards away from the still-burning vehicle. “We didn’t know if it was going to blow up then or what might happen, so we just wanted to get him safely out of the way.” Since the boy was largely unconscious, he was dead weight, but Moon figures that might have made it easier to carry him. “You know, hindsight’s 20-20, but maybe it was a good thing that he was kind of out of it because he wasn’t trying to fight us or put up any resistance.”
The Lifesaving Award came as a surprise to Moon. “I wasn’t trying to get an award,” he said of the incident. “I was just trying to help somebody.”
Garrish admitted he is excited about the award. “We all like to think on a daily basis that we’re changing peoples’ lives, but to actually save somebody’s life and be recognized for it is pretty amazing,” he says.
Garrish and Moon were among 13 employees from eight EMCs to be recognized with a Life Saving Award, which recognizes EMC employees whose quick thinking and actions are instrumental in safeguarding others from dangerous or potentially deadly situations.
About Jackson EMC
Founded in 1938, Jackson EMC is one of the largest electric cooperatives in Georgia and the U.S., serving more than 219,400 meters in the metro Atlanta and northeast Georgia counties of Hall, Gwinnett, Athens-Clarke, Lumpkin, Barrow, Jackson, Madison, Oglethorpe, Franklin and Banks. The membership is 90 percent residential and 10 percent commercial and industrial. Jackson EMC has more than 13,700 miles of energized wire. In one 12-month period ending in June 2015, Jackson EMC sold enough electricity to power a 60-watt incandescent light bulb for one year for all of the nearly 10 million people living in Georgia.
About Georgia EMC
Georgia EMC is the statewide trade association representing the state’s 41 electric cooperatives, Oglethorpe Power Corp., Georgia Transmission Corp. and Georgia System Operations Corp. Through this statewide network, the EMCs provide electricity and related services to 4.4 million people, nearly half of Georgia’s population, across 73 percent of the state’s land area.