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Cortez Jenning’s quick and calm thinking probably saved lives

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Cortez Jennings at the scene of the head-on collision on 61 North near Floweree Road North. Screen grab from Vicksburg Daily News video by David Day

The horrific head-on accident on Highway 61 north near the intersection with North Floweree road happened right beside Cortez Jennings.

Jennings is on the Cary Fire Department, the Issaquena Fire Department and the Yazoo Fire Department. The six people in the two vehicles that collided head-on couldn’t have had a better man there.

According to Jennings, who was an eyewitness to the crash, the brown Jeep with Oklahoma plates passed Jennings going north on 61. The Jeep impacted the gray SUV going south in the southbound lane, right next to Jennings. Jenning stopped and had to turn around to go back to the SUV. When he got there bodies were on the roadway, including one to the side he didn’t see until he got out of the vehicle. There were four passengers in the gray SUV out of Forest County, three of them were ejected from the vehicle including a child. Jennings did all he could to stop traffic that was trying to drive through the 200-yard debris field created by the impact of two vehicles traveling at highway speeds. One vehicle passing through ended up damaging itself from the accident debris on the roadway.

Location of the accident.

While working to control traffic, Jennings called 911 but kept getting Sharkey 911. He then grabbed his firefighter radio and called into Vicksburg dispatch. It was a decision that probably saved the lives of some of the people in that accident. Sharkey has a small response team and an accident of this magnitude would overwhelm their resources. Just a couple of weeks ago an accident happened a couple of miles north of this location where a person perished and many questions were raised about the response from Sharkey County. Jennings knew that story and knew an accident like this would need the resources from Warren County’s highly skilled and highly trained first response team. On the radio, his calm voice professionally and succinctly communicated the seriousness of the accident. “You don’t want to talk too fast and try to give too much information so dispatch can get people out here soon as possible,” explained a collected and calm Jennings to the Vicksburg Daily News.

The brown Jeep is in the ditch after rolling over. Photo by David Day.

The radio sounded off endlessly for the next 10 minutes with everyone announcing they were en route or acknowledging directions from FireBoss Briggs. Vicksburg Fire Chief Craig Danczyk was heard directing a unit at the Miss Mississippi Pageant to head up to the accident. Briggs called in an AirCare helicopter and requested they keep a second unit on standby for this accident. Hearns and Ivy with Northeast diverted to grab a firetruck because one of the vehicles was smoking. The firetruck ended up being used mostly for traffic control. The Rescue Unit was speeding to the scene and the first Sheriff’s Deputy on scene confirmed the need for 2 AirCare Helicopter units.

It was bad.

The SUV was sitting at the side of the road. 3 of its 4 passengers were outside the vehicle, including a child around age 9 who was about 30 yards from the SUV. The right side of the vehicle was heavily damaged and it had full airbag deployment. First responders were working with two of the people ejected. The child was, remarkably, largely uninjured.

The gray vehicle involved in the accident. (Photo by David Day)

About 200 yards north of that location FireBoss Briggs and Chuck Tate were working on one of the two people in the Jeep which was off the roadway. The driver of the Jeep was walking around and fully lucid. His side of the Jeep was destroyed. The vehicle had rolled at least once and the fact he was uninjured is a testament to the quality of the safety features of modern vehicles. His passenger, however, was not so lucky. His injuries were what necessitated AirCare to be called in.

Warren County is very lucky to have the highly trained and experienced firefighters, law enforcement and first responders that save lives every single day. Issaquena County, Yazoo and the Cary Fire Department are lucky to have Cortez Jennings.

Copyright © 2021 Vicksburg Daily News.

Vicksburg Daily News