LUBBOCK, Texas -- Two first responders were killed and another was injured as they worked the scene of two crashes in icy conditions Saturday morning in North Lubbock.
One Lubbock police officer and firefighter died and another firefighter was critically injured when a vehicle crossed a median and crashed into them just after 8:30 a.m. on North Interstate 27 near FM 1294, said Lubbock police public information officer Allison Matherly.
The officer who died was identified as 27-year-old Officer Nicholas Reyna, while the firefighter who died was 39-year-old Lt./Paramedic Eric Hill. The critically injured firefighter is 30-year-old Matt Dawson, who remained hospitalized Saturday afternoon.
The loss of life prompted an outpouring of grief from the community and statements of condolence from local and state officials. It also showed the potentially high cost of not driving to conditions.
Police Chief Floyd Mitchell and Lubbock Fire Rescue Chief Shaun Fogerson hosted a brief news conference later in the morning, going over the timeline of events and calling Saturday a tragic day for Lubbock law enforcement and firefighters.
Emergency crews were responding to an initial crash about 8:19 a.m. in the northbound lanes of I-27 near Drew Street/FM 1294 that involved a single vehicle that had been in the southbound lanes, crossed the median into the northbound lanes and rolled, said Mitchell.
At about 8:36 a.m., a second vehicle hauling a trailer left the southbound lanes of I-27 and rolled, coming to rest in the median 25 to 50 yards south of the first crash.
“While working both accidents, a third vehicle traveling southbound on I-27 crossed over into the median and struck two firefighters and one police officer,” Mitchell said. “This vehicle continued to travel and crossed over into the northbound lanes and came to rest after going down an embankment.”
Reyna was pronounced dead at the scene.
Fogerson said Hill and Dawson were taken by ambulance to University Medical Center, where Hill was pronounced dead and Dawson was in “very critical condition.”
No other life-threatening injuries were reported as a result of the crashes, which police continued investigating Saturday to determine what factors played a role.
But Mitchell and Fogerson both said the loss of life should serve as a grim reminder of the dangers of not slowing down in icy conditions.
The National Weather Service in Lubbock reported about an inch of snow overnight at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport only a few miles from the crash scene. Temperatures were in the lower 20s around the time of the crashes.
“I’d like to reiterate that, one, this is a tragic day for our family, this is a tragic day for police and fire and the men and women of both our departments,” Mitchell said. “When road conditions get this bad, we need to make sure that people understand they need to slow down. They need to understand that the road conditions are dangerous and that we have people out there trying to protect them.”
Fogerson recalled that another recent ice storm in Lubbock saw police and fire vehicles damaged in a crash.
“We lost equipment. Now we’ve lost personnel ... It’s a huge loss for the public safety community here and it’s very unnecessary,” Fogerson said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued brief statements via Twitter in response to the loss of the first responders.
“A horrible tragedy in Lubbock when police & firefighters were hit responding to accident,” reads Abbott’s statement. “Please join me in praying for these victims & their families. We must never forget our First Responders & the risks they take every time they put on their uniform.”
From Patrick: “Terrible news in Lubbock this morning. We have lost 2 brave first responders. As we await more news, please join Jan and I in praying for the Lubbock community and the families of these heroes.”
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope and the City Council released a statement Saturday afternoon:
“Today our city grieves and expresses prayers for the loss of the two first responders who lost their lives today in the line of duty and to the injured fire fighter. This is a tragic event. Our hearts go out to the families and, likewise, to the brave men and women who serve in Lubbock Fire Rescue and in the Lubbock Police Department. Public service is a high calling, and we are indebted to those who serve and protect our lives and safety each and every day. I ask you to offer your prayers and comforting thoughts in light of today’s tragic events.”
Lubbock City Manager Jarrett Atkinson also released a statement, calling Saturday a devastating day for the city, LPD and LFR.
“Our public safety employees work day and night to protect us and are often required to place themselves in harm’s way. Today, we lost two of these heroes and a third is critically injured. We grieve with the families and loved ones of the police officer and fire fighter that were killed in the line of duty today. We also offer our support, assistance and prayers for our injured fire fighter, his family and loved ones. Please join us in supporting our police, fire and City families during this trying time.”
Reyna served with the Lubbock Police Department for one year. Following the academy, he served on patrol during the day shift, according to LPD.
Hill served with Lubbock Fire Rescue for 10 years. He had promoted to lieutenant in July 2019 and was stationed at Fire Station 10B.
Dawson has been with LFR for five years and is stationed at Fire Station 2A.
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