Arkansas firehouse chief and sheriff’s deputy Mike Stephens never saw the heartbreaking discovery he made while responding to a fatal car accident coming: his son died in the crash.
On Monday night, a call came in about a head-on collision nearby, and while “they toned it out,” Stephens heard it.
“I called my lieutenant and said I feel like I need to go to this, it sounds like a bad accident,” he remembered.
Moments after arriving at the scene of the crash, Stephens was informed that his son, 25-year-old volunteer firefighter Joe Stephens, had been killed in the collision. A state trooper broke the devastating news to the now mourning father, while eight additional family members were working at the scene as first responders.
“There was a ball of officers, and we just all kneeled down and prayed,” Stephens recalled the fateful night.
“I guess you don’t think about maybe knowing the person, but not one of us,” Patty Sanders, who also serves on the Pineville Volunteer Fire Department, said.
Although it’s unclear why, his son crossed the center line while driving down the highway and collided with another vehicle coming the other way. He had been heading home to check on his girlfriend, who is currently pregnant with the couple’s child. Their baby boy, whom they decided to name Ryker, is expected to make his arrival just one week after the crash.
“They were so happy,” Stephens said of the pair.
Two other people were seriously injured in the accident, but there have been no updates on their conditions. Grief consumes Stephens’ fire department as they prepare for Joe’s funeral on Friday.
“Family. Not just the blood,” Stephen said. “The badge.”