Fatal Henry County sledding accident takes emotional toll on first responders

First responders too emotional to talk Friday

By Colter Anstaett - Southside Bureau Reporter

AXTON, Va. - Members of the Axton Life Saving Crew who responded to the sledding accident on Old Liberty Drive Thursday that killed 6-year-old Aaron Frias-Alvarez were too emotional to talk Friday.

A Henry County Department of Public Safety member who responded was also too emotional to talk.

Henry County Public Schools provided a yearbook photo of Frias-Alvarez.

He was hit by a car Thursday morning while sledding outside his home on Old Liberty Drive.

The death has been ruled a tragic accident and the driver of the car will not be charged.

Danville Life Saving Crew member Brian Fox said calls involving children are almost always tough on first responders.

"People expect things to happen when you get older; the life cycle progression. So when things happen to an older person it's not quite as affecting to the provider as it is with a child," Fox explained. "It's kind of out of that normal life cycle for something catastrophic to happen to a child."

A chaplain is on standby to work with crew members and each public safety agency in the city has a crisis response team that can help counsel crew members or any other first responder struggling with a call.

"Responders like to think they're 10-foot-tall and bulletproof. That's a common misconception," Fox said.

Another source of help for crew members is the debriefing sessions that take place after each call.

"They're allowed to say whatever they want to in whatever words they know. There's no penalty, no nothing. It's all about just getting it out in the open and dealing with it so it doesn't bother them later," Fox said.

Fox encourages first responders who are struggling to reach out to someone, such as a family member, friend or pastor.

"Do not ever hesitate to reach out to some that they trust, that they have confidence in. And, I would give advice to the ones that they're reaching out to, to listen," Fox responded when asked what advice he would give first responders struggling to cope after handling a distressing call.

In a statement Friday, the principal at Mt. Olivet Elementary, where Frias-Alvarez was in kindergarten, said "The Mt. Olivet Elementary family is deeply saddened to learn of the loss of one of our students. Aaron will be missed by his classmates and school family."

On Friday, 10 News also reached out to the Western Virginia Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Council, which helps local first responders, including in Henry County, process tragedies like the one that happened Thursday.

A representative said that, as of Friday afternoon, none of the first responders involved in Thursday's sledding accident had reached out for help.

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