MARKED TREE — When Marked Tree Police Officer Tommy Hampton recognized a woman, pinned underneath a car with her child, as a friend he's known since third grade, rescue efforts became more personal.
"When I realized it was somebody that I've known my whole life, I guess I had more urgency in my voice is what (Marked Tree Police Chief Michael Matlock) told me," Hampton said. "He said he could tell there was a lot more emotion in it. ... I thought she was dead, and I was upset, I was real upset. But I had a job to do."
Hampton, along with Poinsett County Deputy E.J. Roach and several other first responders were called to the Interstate 555 exit in Marked Tree on Thursday (July 27), after a vehicle rolled over into the ditch. Two children had already been pulled out of the vehicle, and another child was pinned underneath his mother, who was unresponsive. Hampton, Roach and others flipped the car to an upright position, allowing the child to breathe. He recognized the boy immediately.
"I've known him since he was born," Hampton said. "... I said his name and he said, 'Tommy, my mom's dead.' I ran around to the other side as the fire department was trying to help the boy and his mom was completely purple, not making a sound. Deputy Roach climbed in there and started trying to perform life-saving measures, and I was trying to clear the area and get more emergency personnel in because the highway was starting to back up with people."
With the help of other officers and emergency personnel, the mother and child both survived. Matlock allowed Hampton to follow the family to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis.
"We've been friends since third grade," Hampton said of the victim. "I was there with all her kids being born; she was there with all my kids being born."
The Jonesboro Sun reports that Hampton and the victim's husband have worked together at various law enforcement agencies across the state, he said. As soon as the children recognized him during the rescue, they called him by name.
Hampton, who's been with the department for one year, said he did what he trained to do.
"I went by what I was trained to do, life-saving measures until emergency personnel arrive on scene," Hampton said. "... Our chief gives us all the equipment and training we need to do our job."
Matlock said he has an "overwhelming sense of pride" for his officer.
"That's Tommy," Matlock said. "He's going to jump into the thick of it with no regard for himself."
If it hadn't been for the first responders, Matlock said, the accident could've ended much worse.
"It was like a bright shining moment," Matlock said. "You knew because of E.J. Roach and Tommy Hampton that woman and child survived. It's pretty awesome."
Roach works nights, and was unable to return calls for comment. Poinsett County Sheriff Kevin Molder, who also responded to the scene, said Roach did what any of his deputies would do.
"I am extremely proud of Deputy Roach and for the lifesaving procedures he took and the other officer took," Molder said. "... Any of our other deputies would do the same thing. All of our deputies go above and beyond. I wasn't surprised."
Molder also praised the actions of the Marked Tree firefighters and a resident, Zachary Sullivan, who helped rescue the victims.
Hampton said without Roach and others who responded that night, his efforts would have been in vain.
"I wouldn't have been able to lift the car without them," Hampton said. "It was probably stupid of me to try and grab it, but it was the only thing I could think to do, because emergency personnel couldn't get to them fast enough. If we hadn't lifted the car, the boy and her wouldn't have made it; she'd have been without oxygen too long."
In recognition of their efforts, Hampton and Roach will be presented a "Life Saving Award" on Aug. 22 by Molder and Matlock at the Poinsett County Sheriff's Office in Harrisburg. State Rep. Dwight Tosh, R-Jonesboro, and State Sen. Dave Wallace, R-Leachville, will also present a citation to both men.
"I don't do it for awards," Hampton said. "I'm extremely honored. She's alive; that's good enough reward for me."
Distributed by The Associated Press.