Rick Dickerson, a rehabilitation engineer with DHHS’ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, received one of the Governor’s Awards for Excellence for his response to a motor vehicle crash. Dickerson, center, is pictured with DHHS Deputy Secretary for Human Services Tara Myers, left, and DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, right.
Oct. 24, 2018 - As a rehabilitation engineer for DHHS’ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Rick Dickerson was on his way to inspect a home on June 15, 2017, when he came upon a motor vehicle accident in Ahoskie.
Dickerson, 62, was driving along a curve on N.C. 11 and saw a log truck wobbling in the distance. As Dickerson got closer all he could see was smoke.
Another driver, Jason Hancock, arrived shortly after. As the two approached the scene of the accident, they noticed a vehicle with four severely-injured passengers. The car’s engine was beginning to catch fire.
What happened next led to Dickerson receiving the Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the category of Safety and Heroism on Oct. 23, one of 20 state employees honored this year. Dickerson received the award at a ceremony at the Museum of History in Raleigh. Employees are nominated annually for the award by other state employees such as co-workers, supervisors or subordinates.
Dickerson, a retired Air Force member trained in first aid, and Hancock worked together to assist the people in the vehicle. Hancock had a fire extinguisher in his truck and began to put the fire out while Dickerson began removing passengers from the wreckage by cutting off seat belts and pulling them out. “It all happened so fast,” he said.
After removing two passengers, the fire began to spread under the car. Hancock continued to put out the fire while Dickerson removed the third passenger. After the three passengers were removed from the vehicle, Dickerson stayed with one, supporting his head until emergency personnel could arrive.
While the 16-year-old driver died at the scene, Bertie County EMS Capt. Shannon Williams said Dickerson’s efforts saved the lives of the three survivors. Williams, who has been with the EMS for three years, responded to the wreck and said the crash was one of the worst she’s seen.
“It takes a remarkable person to put their life at risk for the life of others,” Williams said. “Rick didn’t have to help, but he wanted to help.”
The two have stayed in touch with one another since the accident.
In recommending Dickerson for the Governor’s Awards for Excellence, his supervisor, Carl Thompson, said he was honored to nominate him. Thompson said Dickerson “demonstrated judgement and courage as he and others helped to prevent loss of life” in response to the accident.
The Governor’s Awards for Excellence are the highest honor a state employee may receive. It is designed to acknowledge and show appreciation for outstanding accomplishments that do not fall under normal duties. DHHS provides recipients three days of special leave.
“I really feel honored to be part of the group that won this award,” Dickerson said. “I saw the stories about the other award recipients and their service to the State of North Carolina and I am so proud to have been included in this extraordinary group.”
Twenty-two other DHHS employees were nominated for the Governor’s Awards for Excellence this year. The nominees receive one day of special leave. They are:
• Mary Barbour, Information Technology Division
• Melissa Beretich, Caswell Developmental Center
• Wayne Black, Division of Social Services
• Ervin Dale, Office of Procurement & Contract Services
• Stephen Elliott, Central Regional Hospital
• John Felts, Murdoch Developmental Center
• Lawrence Griffith, Division of Health Benefits (NC Medicaid)
• Lakeisha Jordan, Division of Health Benefits (NC Medicaid)
• Jenise Kirby, O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center
• Kimberly Ledford, General Counsel’s Office
• Franklin Manley, Murdoch Developmental Center
• Elizabeth McLain, Murdoch Developmental Center
• Jerry Raynor, Cherry Hospital
• Sharon Rhyne, Division of Public Health
• Anne Smith, O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center
• Demetrae Spence, Division of Health Benefits (NC Medicaid)
• Shelley Suka, Central Regional Hospital
• Vanessa Venable, Central Regional Hospital
• LaWanda Warren, O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center
• Carlie Wilson, Longleaf Neuro-Medical Center
• Rhonda Woolard, NC FAST
• Tina Wright, formerly of Broughton Hospital
WATCH: Dickerson describes the accident scene.
Author: Kate DeSilva