First responders recall vivid memories of Avon Mountain crash - WFSB 3 Connecticut

First responders recall vivid memories of Avon Mountain crash

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Avon Mountain crash 10 years ago (WFSB) Avon Mountain crash 10 years ago (WFSB)

Four lives were tragically taken 10 years ago in July after a horrific crash on Avon Mountain.

A fifth victim died less than three days later.

While many were also injured, some said the crash served as a defining moment.

Rev. Jon Widing said he will never forget July 29, 2005.

He is the chaplain for the Avon police and fire departments.

"There was a great deal of turmoil all around and lots of cars in all different directions and lots of flames,” Widing said. "We were about third car on scene and I'll never forget arriving on scene and seeing flames and smoke rising."

Widing was on a ride-a-long with police when the dump truck lost its brakes, and careened down Avon Mountain.

The backed up line of cars carrying commuters stopped at the light didn’t stand a chance.

"Other firefighters were beginning to arrive, a number of police cars already there and it’s a matter of getting into the windows and peering into the windows and seeing who was, how things were. There was no screaming and no terror,” Widing said.

At that time it was Widing’s role to assist first responders and families.

"We did help people getting from cars to stretchers, carrying them to helicopters and ambulance. Just a lot of holding hands and I wasn't equipped to do first aide at that point, subsequently more Chaplain's role of being there and listening and talking and 'how you doing and what can we do? And ‘are you warm enough and how are you feeling’,” Widing said.

He added that July 29, 2005 made him realize there was another calling he needed to answer.

"It is a life changing experience for a number of people, including myself.  That was when I decided I really wanted to be a firefighter and be qualified and work with other firefighters, and to be an EMT and a double role, and also I was very impressed with the leadership and under a tremendous amount of stress,” Widing said.

He added that this is work he loves doing.

"You come into a mindset, this is our job, this is what we do,” said retired Avon Fire Chief Jamie DiPace, who is the current fire marshal.

DiPace was incident commander on the day of the crash.

“There were a number of different things we needed to do and that was the goal, to help a number of victims that were in the accident, and that was the main focus,” DiPace said.

Crews were also making sure firefighters and other town employees responding were ok as well.

"There's no question I think about that day, that accident every time I go through that intersection. I don't dwell on it, but I'd be a liar if I said I didn't look at the furniture store, look at the lawn,” DiPace said.

A decade has passed and still those painful memories remain, not only with the families but with the first responders too.

Widing said he won’t soon forget the image of 42-year-old victim Chip Stotler, a beloved family man, educator and father of five little girls.

“I looked over and saw one of the firefighters and the assistant chief crawl over and try to assist him. That’s a very vivid memory,” Widing said.

Stotler’s widow did not have a comment for Eyewitness News but Stotler’s mother said she misses her son every day.

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