Passers-by stop to help in fatal New Year's Eve wreck
Jan. 3, 2018 at 12:03 a.m.
Updated Jan. 3, 2018 at 7:01 a.m.
In the face of tragedy, a community often relies on its own to take care of each other. Sometimes the right people just happen to be in the right place when they're needed.
That's what happened Sunday afternoon in the immediate aftermath of a two-car crash on FM 2208 in Harrison County that killed Jessica Marie Click, 19, of Hallsville and her 3-month-old son, Waylon, and sent Christopher Brian Derr, 24, of Jefferson to the hospital in serious condition.
In the time before paramedics could get to the crash, passers-by and neighbors sprang into action, hoping to save lives.
When Allison Freeman, a Longview nurse, drove up to the crash site, state troopers were there but no medical professionals had arrived, so she pulled over and got out to check on the injuries.
She and a doctor who also was on scene started doing CPR on Waylon until an EMT arrived.
"She took over what I was doing, and I went back to check on Jessica," Freeman said of the emergency medical tech's arrival. "Even having worked in hospitals, that was probably one of the worst things I've ever been a part of."
That EMT, Terri Eubanks, also happened to be driving near the wreck and stopped to help.
"I pulled up on the wreck and told my husband to get me as close as possible," she said. "I took over doing CPR, doing chest compressions, along with the pediatric doctor that was there, then when the ambulance arrived … the EMT there took over."
Freeman said people driving in after she arrived brought coats from their cars to cover up the injured, trying to keep them warm on an unusually cold day. Others tried to help by holding up blankets around the medics and the baby to shield them from the cold air as they worked, Eubanks said.
"I was so focused on that baby I couldn't tell you how many people were there, but there were a lot," she said.
Eubanks said she hasn't contacted the family since the crash, but plans to attend the funeral services for the mother and baby.
Freeman said even after the wreck was cleared and ambulances left for the hospital, she couldn't stop thinking about what happened, what she'd just seen and been a part of.
"I sat there crying for about 30 minutes," she said.
She said she plans to leave a painted cross — in fluorescent green, Click's favorite color — at the site of the crash and has invited her family to come, too.
Chambrine Neal-Downs, Click's mother, said she has been in close communication with Freeman in the days since the wreck and was touched by all she and others did to help, including continuing CPR even when they could no longer feel little Waylon's pulse.
"They were kind and compassionate and are hurting as much as we are," the baby's grandmother said. "I just want to thank everybody, from the people who are praying to those who were at the scene trying to help."
People from as far as the United Kingdom and Africa, who knew Click through a Facebook group for moms, have reached out after the wreck, Neal-Downs said. She said the family is setting up a PayPal account for people to help with funeral expenses.
"There's been such a big outpour," she said. "I didn't know my daughter had affected so many people."
As her family tries to move forward, she said she hopes Derr's family is receiving the same kind of community support.
"His family has got to be just as devastated as we are," Neal-Downs said. "A lot of people are forgetting him, but his family needs our prayers because he still has a chance."