FRESNO, California (KGPE) – The start of the new year was marked by horrific traffic collisions, including the crash that killed seven children and two adults between Avenal and Coalinga. While first responders are often exposed to tragedy, it is not usually on this scale.
“It’s not the first time we’ve had to deal with a collision of great magnitude like this, I wish I could say it was and I wish I could say there won’t be more, but unfortunately we know that there will be,” said Lt. Jason Bartlett of the Office of Employee Safety and Assistance at the California Highway Patrol.
In the first few days of 2021, the CHP recorded a preliminary number of 16 people killed over the maximum enforcement period in the Central Valley area.
“Two tragic collisions that we had down there which our officers responded to along with other first responders. These aren’t normal things that people go through and it’s not just because we put on the badge and the gun and the uniform that we are immune to it.”
Lt. Bartlett says there are various support programs and peer support available 24/7 – 365 days a year to CHP employees from the second day they start academy training and Bartlett says it’s very much needed.
“You know, it’s the old adage, if you take care of yourself first, you can definitely help others. So the better choices we make, the safer the outcome, the less response that’s needed and that goes for both sides, both for the public and also for us as a department and officers.”