• Sara Doan, Northeast Arkansas News

Trumann EMS service works to rebuild after office is destroyed by tornado

TRUMANN, Ark- Once Delta EMS in Trumann received word that a tornado was on the ground in east Craighead County, it was all hands-on deck. Instead of running away from the tornadoes, paramedics and staff rushed to offer assistance following a mass casualty scene declared at Monette Manor.

“We started toward Monette, and then we got the alert that the nursing home was actually hit and destroyed, and there was entrapment,” says Delta EMS service supervisor Haley Latham. “Going to Monette, it was like a ghost town. Everything was completely pitch-black dark. The closer we got to highway eighteen, it was just a sea of blue lights and red lights. Everybody is headed to Monette.”

Staff was waiting at the Delta EMS office Friday, anticipating severe weather. Completely unaware that a storm was headed for Trumann and the facility they call home. The crew arrived at the pop-up triage site at Monette High School just as another storm arrived.

“There were residents from the nursing home being unloaded into the school buses into the high school as we’re trying to get people into safe zones, safe rooms,” Latham, a former Monette Manor employee said.

Not too long after arriving in Monette, Delta EMS got word that a nursing home in Trumann took a direct hit from an EF 2 tornado that had just touched down.

“We help our community. We help surrounding communities. We want to be there for anybody that needs it. It was so terrible that our community and our nursing home was hit while we were there. But people still have to be helped no matter what," she said while recounting the event of December 10.

Once released from Monette, the crew headed back to Trumann- reporting to the command center set up at the high school. Still unaware that the Delta EMS building also took a direct hit- destroying the facility where Latham had been just an hour before to get medical supplies.

“Eventually, we were released from Trumann High School and, we got to make our way just a mile down the road, and we realized our home office was completely destroyed."

The aftermath of the tornado left the facility in ruins.

“We had a bay door in the back of our building that was blown outside. It looked like it had blown from the inside out," she says while describing the scene left by the twister. "So, supplies, equipment, electronics, about a dozen computers. Everything is just scattered and blown into the parking lot.”

Latham says they were left speechless.

“You don’t really know what to do. You feel helpless. We’re a nonprofit organization, so obviously, we don’t have an extravagant amount of funds to pick up pieces."

Delta recently purchased a new building with plans to move in next year, following extensive renovations inside. A project that's mainly funded and completed by staff to keep costs low. Suddenly in an instant, the new facility became a makeshift home office.

“Because we have to remain operational, ya know? We own an ambulance service; this is Delta; we have to be operational,” Latham says, holding back tears. “We just immediately started packing everything we could Saturday morning. We literally had to do the best with what we had. We were packing things that we didn’t know if they worked.”

The nonprofit is the first to help the community. But now they need your help, as staff work to pick up the pieces after losing so much by creating a GoFundMe.

“We’re working very hard trying to get this building functional to where we can use it. The entire building is going to be re-done,” the paramedic said.

Despite all the challenges Delta EMS has faced over the past seven days, Latham and fellow staff members continue to answer the call when one is in need.

“We’re still here, and we’re still going, and we’re still making calls every time the phone rings, and we’re doing it with a smile on our face because that’s what we do here.”

Before Thanksgiving, Latham painted a turkey and the words “be thankful” on one of their building windows. While the facility was a complete loss, the be thankful window was still enacted. She says that and seeing the community come together following the storms is what keeps her going.

If you would like to donate to Delta EMS' GoFundMe, you can do so by clicking the link below.

Fundraiser by Delta EMS : Local Ambulance Service Destroyed (gofundme.com)


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