Story submitted by the members of Oak Bowery Fire & Rescue (LaFayette, Alabama) with permission from the Chupp family.
On December 29, 2020, Cleburne County resident Michael Chupp’s life was saved by the quick thinking and action of Jeremy Robinson. Robinson, who owns and operates Robinson Equipment Service, also volunteers as the Fire Chief of Oak Bowery Fire & Rescue near LaFayette in Chambers County. Robinson was repairing equipment on Chupp’s logging job in Clay County when a log penetrated the cab of the loader Chupp was operating. The log tore and partially severed part of Chupp’s arm, causing severe bleeding from a ruptured artery and trapping him inside the loader.
Robinson witnessed the accident, recognized the urgency of the situation, and took immediate action. He removed his belt and used it as a tourniquet to stop the loss of blood from the hemorrhage, called 9-1-1, requested a helicopter air lift, and used the GPS coordinates on his cell phone to direct the ambulance to the logging site. Clay County Ambulance crew stabilized Chupp and transported him to a landing zone where a helicopter with medical personnel arrived approximately 20 minutes later. They airlifted him to UAB Hospital in Birmingham where the hospital’s trauma team took over. After surgery on his arm, Michael spent several days at UAB, returned home, and is now back at work doing light duty.
On December 30, the day after the accident, Tina, Michael’s wife, posted her appreciation and thoughts about the accident on Facebook:“As some have heard Michael had an accident at work yesterday. To say that our God is faithful is an understatement! Of all the days for this to happen Jeremy a young man that works on their equipment just happened to be there. He is Chief of the Oak Bowery Fire Department and paramedic too and when that tree top went through that loader cab and almost took Michael’s arm off he was there and knew exactly what to do. So here he is (picture of Michael at UAB) sitting up finally eating and what they thought would take three surgeries turned into one. We just want to thank each and every person that has prayed, called, or texted and thought about us in this scary time. To Jeremy and Clay County ambulance and rescue squad and to the flight nurse and pilots that got him to the hospital in time and the Dr’s, nurses and anyone that had anything to do with getting my honey where he is right now thank you from the bottom of our hearts. He will be on the mend for a few weeks and we would appreciate your continued prayers. We love you all!”
When Chief Robinson was asked how he knew what actions were needed to save Michael’s life, he answered that his training as a volunteer firefighter was helpful. As Fire Chief at Oak Bowery Fire & Rescue, Robinson has received training in all phases of firefighting, including first aid, navigation, extrication and accident response, and natural disaster response. In 2019, Robinson led Oak Bowery Fire & Rescue’s response to the aftermath of the tornado that tore through Beauregard and Smith’s Station. Volunteer first responders who know and work with Robinson at Oak Bowery describe him as an outstanding leader and hard worker who remains calm under pressure and handles difficult situations correctly. Those qualities saved Michael Chupp’s life on December 29, 2020.
In speaking with Robinson, he strongly emphasized the need for more people to be involved in all volunteer fire departments in the area. He added this about volunteer first responders everywhere, “We are all volunteers who serve without pay to provide some level of fire protection and response to emergencies in the rural areas where we live. We need more help.” Robinson attributes the actions that saved Chupp’s life to the free training and experience he received over the years as a volunteer firefighter and the quick teamwork of all of the first responders involved in the effort. He says that many of the logging sites that his company regularly visits are hard to find and on rainy days even more difficult to get to. Loggers need to be able to communicate their location to 9-1-1 dispatchers using landmarks or GPS coordinates in situations where they do not have a physical address. One easy method is sharing their location with a pin drop from the maps on their phone. Emergency crews need to have access to four-wheel drive vehicles when responding to a logging accident. Robinson was able to keep calm, contact 9-1-1, and provide first aid because of his volunteer training and recommends it for everyone.