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Man to reunite with EMT who saved his life from burning van

Photo courtesy of AMR.

It was a day like any other for 22-year-old Courtney Tullos. The AMR EMT was driving to work along the Natchez Trace on January 30, when she saw a van that had run off the road and hit a tree.  Tullos who is also a member of Raymond Volunteer Fire Department was the first to stop at the crash scene. As she approached the van, she saw the driver was still in his seat and was reaching behind his seat for something.  She also noticed smoke and small flames coming from the van’s hood and knew the fire could envelop the whole van in minutes.

Tullos immediately opened the door and told the man, “Come on! We’ve got to get away!”  Then she noticed the man was a paraplegic who used hand controls to drive.  He had been reaching for his wheelchair which was folded up just behind him.

The flames and smoke were spreading fast so Tullos pulled the man 15 to 20 yards from the van up a slight embankment. She then rushed back to the van to get his wheelchair.  She called 911 and stayed with the man as the fire intensified.  As other motorists stopped, the fire completely consumed the van. 

Minutes later, members of Raymond VFD arrived in a firetruck.  VFD Chief Mike Wilson was on the pumper.  A member of the Hinds County emergency management staff, Tracey Funches, also arrived in his pick-up. They began to fight the fire, aiming to save at least some of the van plus trees and grass on the Trace.

The fire blew the van’s tires.  A dashboard camera in the county EMA pick-up was trained on the van some fifty yards away. As tires exploded, the blast waves visibly shook the pickup’s windshield. 

An AMR ambulance also arrived in short order.  Tullos gave her co-workers a report on her patient, who she learned was James Clayton of Jackson, and the ambulance crew assessed Clayton.  While Clayton had no obvious injuries, the ambulance crew advised him it would be wise to get examined at a hospital emergency department.  Clayton agreed and AMR took him to a local ER. 

Tullos resumed her drive to work at AMR.  At the hospital, ER staff evaluated Clayton and released him.  However, his van was a burned-out shell, a total loss.

County emergency management officials, VFD Chief Wilson and AMR managers felt Tullos should be recognized as a model of EMTs’ and firefighters’ commitment to helping others and the Hinds County board of supervisors agreed. 

For her heroism, Tullos will receive the Hinds County Board of Supervisors’ Above and Beyond Award at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, February 20 at 9:00 am in the chancery building at 316 South President Street.

Clayton will be in attendance at the meeting to reunite with Tullos.

“Ms. Tullos is a stellar representative of the lifesaving service EMTs and volunteer firefighters provide, often putting their own lives at risk to help others,” said Jim Pollard, AMR public affairs manager.

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