VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) - This summer was an especially dangerous one along Interstate 70.
Seven people died in car crashes within just a few weeks of each other...two of them were children.
Firefighters from Riley Fire Department were one of the several agencies called out to those devastating crashes.
We wanted to take a closer look at the dangers along the interstate...a look through the eyes of those often first on the scene.
Kevin Murphy and Matt McCullough have 33-years of combined experience in firefighting.
It's now like an instinct to both of them when it comes to preparing and responding to an emergency.
But nothing could prepare them for an especially deadly stretch of car crashes.
According to Indiana State Police, seven people died in crashes this summer along the Vigo County/Clay County line.
"It was just a bad year...a bad year in a short time frame," Murphy told us.
He went on to say construction season is typically the most dangerous on the interstate.
In fact, he says it's not IF there will be accidents...but WHEN.
One day, in particular, sent shockwaves through the community and turned life upside down for the Riley Fire Department.
That day was July 18th of this year.
A semi failed to slow down at a construction zone, hitting a car carrying a mother and her children.
Two of the kids were killed and another was in critical condition.
"When you have kids involved...I put my kids in those spots," McCullough said.
McCullough will tell you it was this crash that nearly ended his career.
He was one of the first on the scene.
"At the scene, you really aren't affected, it's when you get back and all the adrenaline goes away."
After 20 years on the job...this one day near broke him.
"I made it home and saw my kids...I gave them a big hug. You don't realize how fragile it is until it's gone."
When we asked if something like this makes McCullough want to quit.
"There are different phases after something like this happens...and that first one is I'm done. This is going to be the last. I'm going to find something else. I did. I went through that. 20 years, I'm good...time to move on to something else. But then you realize you're there to help people. That's what we've always done and what we get in the service to do."
Their job is to save lives.
But behind all the gear and all of the experience...who saves them?
Matt and Kevin say they lean on their faith and their colleagues to help them get through.
Stress debriefing is mandated by the departments.
But no matter how much or how long it hurts, in the end, they know those emergency tones will go off again.
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