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Conway firefighter back home following injury

By Tammy Keith

This article was published September 30, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

— Firefighter Danny Collins, 38, is home in Conway after being hospitalized in Shreveport, La., for a brain injury that occurred Sept. 22 during dive training in Hot Springs.

Conway Fire Chief Bart Castleberry said Collins suffered a brain embolism “and other things.”

“It was really touch and go for the first two days,” Castleberry said.

He said Collins and firefighters Jonathan Talley and Ty Ledbetter were taking part in a dive class at Lake Ouachita in about 20 feet of water and were doing “a grid search — they search in a pattern, a grid.”

Talley was on the bank, attached to Ledbetter, who was attached to Collins.

“Ledbetter noticed he was getting pulled on, so he went back and checked, and Danny was tangled up,” Castleberry said. “He helped [Collins] untangle, and they went to the surface. Danny immediately started having trouble, physically.”

Castleberry said Collins was first taken to a Hot Springs hospital.

He said the doctor on duty had been a physician in Florida and “had seen these types of injuries before.”

The doctor said Collins needed a hyperbaric chamber for brain injuries, and Collins was taken to Shreveport.

“He had to fly at a certain altitude, couldn’t fly high,” Castleberry said.

Castleberry said he and other firefighters visited Collins in the hospital. He said Brian Moix, division chief and training officer, stayed in Shreveport the entire time.

The chief said Collins could talk “in short periods.”

Castleberry said he couldn’t elaborate on Collins’ condition, but he said he doesn’t expect Collins to return to the Fire Department “for a while.”

Capt. Rick Powell, who was also with Collins in Shreveport, said, “He’s in good spirits. We’re looking forward to getting him back down here.”

Powell worked with Collins at Wilson Drews Central Fire Station in downtown Conway.

Collins is a driver, a bomb technician and a special-operations team member.

“He’s a good man; he’s seasoned,” Castleberry said. “He’s all-out fire department.”

Castleberry said because it was an on-the-job injury, the city will help with Collins’ expenses, as will a firefighters benevolent fund.

The Conway Fire Department’s special rescue team trains “all the time,” Castleberry said, and has never before had a serious injury.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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