Neil Bain heaved a big sigh of relief.
The Wyoming volunteer firefighter who had lived under the cloud of careless driving charges after a March 2014 accident on Highway 402 breathed easier when he heard for the first time Tuesday the charges against him had been dropped.
When Bain talked exclusively to The Independent minutes after the charges were withdrawn, he didn’t have all the legal reason for the move, but he was happy.
Bain was driving one of two Wyoming fire trucks heading out to an accident on the 402 that night. It was snowing, the road was slick and the traffic was crawling down the highway.
Bain, speaking for the first time about the accident, says he’d driven in weather like this dozens of times. “It wasn’t our first time out there,” he says. “We were out there 35 times that winter and we were out in just as bad (of weather) as that,” says Bain.
“Everything went white and then there was brake lights ahead. The guys called ‘brake lights’ …The truck was lined up on two little cars in my lane, so I went left as far as I could go between the tractor (trailer) and the two little cars.” Bain knew the heavy fire truck would destroy the cars and he wanted to avoid injuring the people inside.
He did avoid the cars and for the most part, he and the four others in the vehicles were okay. He turned around to look at the firefighters to check on them. “Everything was fine until kaboom!”
The fire truck Bain was driving was hit from behind, first by the other Wyoming truck and then another. That’s when Bain broke his wrist and the four others were injured.
Bain’s injury is still having repercussions. His wife, Judy, says he will never be able to go back to his old job at the local feed mill and the wrist still hurts with certain movements. “He can’t throw a ball to the grand kids…anything with any vibration he’ll never be able to do,” she says.
But there are things he loves which he will still be able to do, including being a volunteer firefighter.
Three months ago, Bain was given clearance by his doctor to resume limited active duties as a firefighter with the Wyoming Department. By mid-October, Bain was slinging hoses again.
“I know what certain things I can do…the other day I pulled 200 feet of inch-half line at a fire,” he says, adding he did feel the pain later.
“I do it. That’s what I’m there for, that was my job -pull the hose and put the fire out.”
Bain and his wife say the charges were a cause of stress for them, keeping them away from some community events, not wanting to answer more questions about the accident and the charges that followed.
But he never thought of quitting his volunteer firefighting job. “I was not even close (to quitting). If I had the desire to quit, I would have quit long ago,” Bain says adding the department is a strong supportive community he doesn’t want to give up.
Bain is concerned what the impact of the now-dropped charges will have on other volunteer firefighters. He says there is one firefighter in Wyoming who now doesn’t want to drive on the highway – worried if there is an accident he might face charges, too.
Bain says after months of worry, losing his job and dealing with continuing pain, he’s not bitter about the accident or the charges that followed. “It’s too bad it happened but life goes on,” he says.
And Bain adds he and his wife could not have made it through the legal ordeal without the support of his fellow firefighters and the entire community.
Over 6,000 people signed a petition calling for Bain’s charges to be dropped. Bain says he still was getting people asking to sign them and he had support from people as far away as Thunder Bay and Toronto.
Fire Chief Mike Vasey is “very happy for everybody involved” that the legal battle is over adding it was a feeling of “complete relief.” He says it was amazing to see the community support for the department.
“We certainly appreciate the people who signed the petition,” he says adding while it may not have had anything to do with the charges being dropped “it certainly didn’t hurt. That, along with the evidence, certainly put the pressure on.
“Right now, I’m just happy for Neil and Judy…pretty happy and relieved.”