Rescuing the rescuer: Emergency vehicle flips

Kevin Carter was responding to a medical emergency call when he ended up needing an emergency rescue himself.

Carter, 27, a fire inspector for the county, was cruising with lights flashing down Miller School Road south of Crozet July 12 when his county-owned fire-and-rescue Chevy Suburban hit loose gravel in a driveway and went off the right side of the road, according to county spokeswoman Lee Catlin. As Carter tried to get back on the road, the Suburban careened across the road to the left, took out a fence, and rolled over.

"The car drifted not even a foot," says investigating Albemarle County police officer Roger Mathias. "When he jerked the wheel to the left, he crossed the road and went into the grass."

The slick grass caused Carter to slide sideways onto a fence and the Suburban to roll at least one-and-a-half times to end up on its side, estimates Mathias.

"There were two fence posts stuck in the roof like spears," says Mathias, "and one in the passenger's door on the driver's side." Damage to the '94 Suburban is approximately $12,000.

Carter escaped with minor injuries. In the days following his accident, the rumor in Crozet was that he'd died, reports Mathias. Very much alive, Carter had already been released from the hospital before Mathias could get there to interview him. He returned to work on Monday, July 15.

No charges were filed, and Carter did not return The Hook's phone call.

Carter was driving about 55 miles per hour in a curvy 40-mph section of Miller School Road. "You're driving an emergency vehicle at higher speeds, which you're allowed to do," says Mathias. Albemarle County police can drive up to 20 miles over the limit under certain conditions, he adds.

Public safety drivers have better driving records than the general public, but Mathias points out that accidents can happen at any time.

In fact, Mathias was in one a year and a half years ago when he was chasing convicted rapist and later escapist Timothy Eades in Batesville. "My car went down a 40-foot embankment, rolled three times, clipped the tops of some trees, and caught on fire," Mathias says.

Mathias climbed out of his car, got into another police car, and continued the chase. "I was in shock," he says. He ended up in the hospital.

So what should drivers do when their cars go off the road? "Your first instinct is to do what it takes to stay on the road," says Mathias.

His advice: "Let off the gas and brake, hang onto the steering wheel, and try to steer through it."