When Shaun Graham responded to the deadly school bus crash on I-84 last month that left two adults dead and a dozen children injured, there was no time to do anything but immediately leap into action.
“That worst case scenario, you have 40 kids hurt really bad," said the second assistant chief of the Slate Hill Fire Department. "It's a lot, but you're really focused on getting the job done and knowing that the guys are very squared away and are going to take care of what needs to be done.”
The actions of the Slate Hill firefighters and other first responders on that day, which helped save the lives of high school kids, is what brought them from Slate Hill to Albany, where they were honored for their heroism.
What You Need To Know
- First responders who assisted with the deadly Wawayanda bus crash in September, were honored by Gov. Kathy Hochul
- Their response and actions are credited with saving lives during a crash that killed two adults and injured more than a dozen kids
- First responders from the Slate Hill Fire Department are also calling for a crash gate to be constructed nearby their fire house so they can respond to highway accidents faster
Firefighters from Slate Hill and other first responders were recognized by Gov. Kathy Hochul for the lifesaving measures they took in response to the crash. Because without them, the governor said, the accident could’ve ended with more loss.
“They never turn off that natural instinct to go into harm's way because there just might be someone who needs them at that very moment," Hochul said. "And they sure did.”
Graham said the firefighters don't show up to work for medals or words of affirmation, but it's good for the state to see what departments do to keep communities safe.
“The guys all coming up, we’re all volunteer here," he said. "They take their job and their roles here extremely serious. So it's nice for them to get some recognition.”
Especially, as they push a decades-long campaign to get a crash gate installed for the nearby highway, so that they can more easily access the scene of an accident.
“It's going to save a lot of time for us to get out there, instead of wasting time to go to another exit and double back," Graham said. "Seconds matter, minutes matter in emergency situations. So the faster we can get out there, the better we can be.”
The crash gate recently gained more support.
Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with Rep. Pat Ryan, have pledged support to push for a crash gate along the stretch of highway where the bus accident occurred.
A final decision has not yet been reached by the Department of Transportation.