MANATEE — It was a firefighter’s worst nightmare.
The critically injured teenager that Arthur Kersey helped remove Sept. 1 from the mangled wreckage of a head-on collision was his own son, Dylan.
But in the predawn darkness of the 5:42 a.m. crash, Kersey didn’t recognize the wreckage of the heavily damaged 1996 Chevrolet or the bloody victim he helped extricate.
Not until he saw a distinctive scar on the victim’s back did he recognize his only child.
Dylan Kersey was flown by medical helicopter from the crash site, State Road 70 east of Verna Bethany Road, to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg where he has been since in a chemically induced coma fighting for his life.
Dylan’ devastated parents Arthur and Kathy have spent most of their days since the crash at Bayfront, praying for their son’s recovery.
Tuesday, Arthur “Otter” Kersey struggled to find words beyond “shock and disbelief” to express his feelings.
Dylan, a former Lakewood Ranch High School student, has been attending State College of Florida.
“We have had really good support from family and friends. Fire Chief Danny Cacchiotti has taken a lot of calls for me. That’s good because I have a lot of people calling me as it is,” said Arthur Kersey, a 13-year veteran of the Myakka City Fire Department.
Firefighter/paramedic Ed Jackson, Kersey’s partner at the fire department, said he did not respond to the crash that morning, but he heard the 911 call.
“One of the 911 callers mentioned there was heavy entrapment for both patients and one had reportedly stopped breathing,” Jackson said.
Three ambulances and three firetrucks — two from East Manatee Fire Rescue and one from Myakka — responded to the accident scene.
“Otter didn’t recognize his son’s vehicle, and he participated in the extrication of both patients,” Jackson said.
“He extricated his own son from the vehicle. You can imagine the emotions that run there,” Jackson said.
Otter Kersey was allowed to accompany his son on the Bayflight helicopter to the hospital.
He is on the same floor with the other driver in the accident, a St. Petersburg resident who is being treated for non-life threatening injuries.
The wife of the other driver saw Otter Kersey at the hospital and came over to thank him for helping rescue her husband.
Cacchiotti said the department is working to set up a fund at a local bank to help the family with medical and other expenses and is planning a benefit barbecue for the Kersey family. The date and time — 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. Sept. 25 — has been finalized but not the location, he said.
“I think everyone is concerned. The worst thing that we could imagine is to run up on a family member in an emergency call,” Cacchiotti said.
Lt. Chris Miller of the Florida Highway Patrol said the investigation into the crash continues. There have been no charges filed.
For more information about the planned benefit, call (941) 322-6525.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at (941) 745-7021.