CORDOVA — First responders around Richmond County are receiving training on how to get riders off of public transportation vans in the event of a wreck.
Area of Richmond Transit Director Neel Peacock had one of the vans at the Cordova Fire Department Monday evening to show them the access points and other features of the vehicle.
Peacock said he came up with the idea for the training about a year ago after several small wrecks involving ART vehicles since he took over in late 2014.
“We average about one wreck a year and it’s usually a minor rear-ending,” he said. “We did have a driver that got their neck injured a couple of years ago, and in the old vehicles it was interesting to try to see the first responders get them out.”
One passenger died following a Nov. 12 wreck on N.C. 177.
According a report from the N.C. State Highway Patrol, the driver of the ART vehicle ran off the road and hit a vehicle stopped at the intersection of Earle Franklin Drive before colliding with a tree.
Peacock said he could not comment on that specific incident.
The countywide system provides transportation for a number of county residents for various reasons.
“We drop people off at college every day, we drop people off at work every day,” Peacock said.
Last year, ART drivers logged 261,000 miles carrying 41,000 passengers, with an average of 40,000 each year, he added.
However, Peacock said, 65 percent of the riders are Medicaid clients, who ride the vans back and forth to doctor visits, including dialysis treatments. Some of those are blind, have difficulty walking or are in wheelchairs.
The vans like the one being used for the training seat nine ambulatory clients. However, they also have room for three wheelchairs which reduces the room for ambulatory riders to three seats.
Peacock demonstrated how to let down the wheelchair ramp both electronically and manually; how to open the side doors manually; and how to pop the emergency exit on the top.
The assembled group then split into mock victims and rescuers — first safely removing a patient in a wheelchair, then extricating a patient on a backboard.
The Rockingham Police Department has already gone through a scaled-down version of the training and several other fire departments are lined up including those in Hoffman and Ellerbe.
“I’m open to anybody that wants me to come down, I’ll bring a van for them to do training,” he said. “And it’s truly for them to get what they need to get out of it. They know their needs better than I do. I’m just kinda facilitating the training by bringing the equipment down here.”
For more information on ART services or to schedule a training session, call 910-895-1313.
*Note- this story has been updated to correct the number of miles logged by ART drivers.