KINGSTON (WATE) - It has been almost one year since a young volunteer firefighter nearly lost his life when his car crashed into a horse that was standing in the middle of the road. The first responders were firefighters from his own department.
On the evening of January 10, 2012, Caleb Wilson was headed home on Gallaher Road in Roane County, just about five miles from his fire station. His Ford Focus hit a 1,500-pound Tennessee Walking horse that was standing in the middle of his lane.
"I didn't have enough reaction time to think really clearly, but I saw a car coming the other way and a ditch on the other side, so I thought I'm going to have to go through it and I continued that speed into that telephone pole right down there," he said.
Wilson, now 19, doesn't remember much after that, but his fellow firefighters who arrived at the scene recall when they learned the victim was one of their own.
"It kind of makes your heart sink real quick and you start realizing a brother is in trouble and hurting," said East Roane County Volunteer Fire Chief David Maupin.
"It's much harder to do your job at that moment. The muscle memory, the training that you've done for years, is kind of scrambled for a minute. You wonder if he's going to live, how you're going to save him," Maupin said.
Wilson was in the hospital for nearly a month, much of that time in a medically-induced coma.
"I had a traumatic brain injury, a cracked skull, a jaw that was broken in three places," Wilson explained.
It took six months of rehabilitation before he was cleared to return to duty.
"I still like to help people. I still want to go out there and actively help other people," he said.
And now he has the chance to do that again, thanks to all those who helped him.
"Everybody was there at the right time when I needed them. There's no way that I could ever thank you enough," Wilson said.
Fundraisers for Wilson brought in more than $6,000 to help pay for his medical bills.
The East Roane County Volunteer Fire Department is hosting a spaghetti dinner at Young's Chapel Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Kingston on Saturday, January 12. Dinner is $5 and the proceeds will help the department buy equipment.