Firefighters build ramp for boy injured at Blaine pier

Published on Wed, May 7, 2014 by Ian Ferguson

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On April 27, calamity struck a Blaine family when a speeding truck hit their 7-year-old boy at the Blaine pier. After sustaining a broken foot, broken legs, an injured elbow, road rash and a possible concussion in the accident, Urban Albright has a long road ahead of him before he can walk and run again; he is wheelchair bound for the next six to eight weeks.

The injuries are a heavy burden for the Albright family, with four other children to take care of in addition to Urban, but on May 5 a group of heroic community members gathered to make the Albrights’ journey to recovery a little easier.

Members of the North Whatcom section of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 106 teamed up to build a 
wheelchair ramp to the second story of the Albrights’ home on Drayton Court Road. Joel Sellinger, a firefighter with carpentry and construction experience, spearheaded the project, but it was his sister Jasmine Johnson who came up with the idea.

“My sister has known the family for years. She contacted me and pitched the idea,” Sellinger said. “I sent out an email to our unit, and within 10 minutes a bunch of people had emailed me back. Everyone was very eager to get involved.”

Around 15 firefighters pitched in to build the ramp, which is supported by an existing staircase at the back of the house. 

Sellinger said the construction went much faster than anticipated; the crew arrived at 9 a.m. and had finished the ramp by noon. Pacific Building Center supplied lumber and materials for the project. Border Brew supplied coffee for the crew.

Urban’s parents Sean and Corrina said they were extremely grateful for the help, and that the ramp will make their lives easier.

“It’s amazing,” Corrina said. “It will make a huge difference in getting him in and out of the house.”

Sean said the ramp means he won’t have to carry his son down the front steps, which is uncomfortable for Urban because his skin is healing from the accident.

“He has road rash on his back, so the more you’re holding him, the more you’re rubbing against the road rash and the bruises.
 Now we won’t have to do that except to transfer him from the wheelchair to the car,” Sean said.

Sean recalled the day of the incident, when he had biked with his sons Urban and Jack to the Blaine pier to go fishing. The three of them were on the pier when Sean noticed the speeding truck out of the corner of his eye.

“I saw the truck come through the temporary fence they had set up, but it took me a moment to register what he was doing. He sped up as he came toward us, and then it clicked – get out of the way – but by that time he was at the edge of the pier. Jack, our older boy, was farther out of the way, but Urban was more towards the middle of the pier. 

I called for him to come over but by the time he turned and looked at me, the truck was on him. He took maybe a couple of steps and then he got hit by the right front corner of the truck, thrown and then run over. I couldn’t tell he’d been run over immediately because it happened so fast. I lost sight of the truck and just saw my son, and didn’t realize until a few moments later that the truck had crashed through the railing and into the water,” Albright said.

For an agonizing instant, Sean said he couldn’t tell if his son had survived. He quickly figured out his son wasn’t bleeding, was breathing and was even talking. 

“I realized he was probably going to live, it was just a question of how severely he was injured,” Albright said. “His foot was twisted sideways.” 

Albright immediately called 911. An agent from U.S. Customs and Border Protection was first on the scene, followed closely by a Blaine police officer and paramedics from North Whatcom Fire and Rescue.

The truck that hit Urban was driven by Allan James May, a 54-year-old Whatcom County resident whose body was found on the shoreline of Peace Arch Provincial Park in B.C. the day after the crash. Authorities believe he was intending to commit suicide. May pled guilty to felony harassment with domestic violence and fourth-degree domestic assault in December 2013, according to documents filed in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Urban was taken by ambulance to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was placed in intensive care. He then spent almost a week in Seattle Children’s Hospital before coming home. 

Eight days after the accident, Urban seemed in good spirits. He was playing video games on the couch when construction of the wheelchair ramp was completed, and he agreed to put the game aside to demonstrate how the ramp works and hang out with the firemen and paramedics who had gathered in his backyard.

“He’s darn tough,” Sean said. “He took himself off the pain medications in the hospital, so he’s not taking anything now except chewable aspirin to prevent blood clots.

“Now it’s just a matter of not hurting him when we move him,” Corrina said. “He’s going in for x-rays this Friday, and we’re hoping everything looks good. If the bones in the foot aren’t healing correctly, they’ll have to do surgery to put pins in.”

The casts on Urban’s legs and left arm are due to come off in six to eight weeks, and he’ll have to undergo physical therapy after that. He may have to undergo speech therapy as well, because a speech therapist at Harborview detected a possible problem that may be related to the incident. Further tests will determine if Urban’s head was injured in the accident, Sean said.

The family is coping with a very different routine as Urban heals from his injuries.

“We’re working through it,” Sean said. “It’s a lot of work. You have to pick him up in and out of the wheelchair, and we have four other kids and their needs don’t stop. Corrina’s folks have come down for a few days to help out, and I’ve taken some 

Several of the on-duty paramedics who had responded to the incident at the pier were in the neighborhood, and stopped by for a moment to say hi to Urban and his family. They brought the boy to the front of the house to see the fire truck.

Chuck Shipp, head of the Local 106, gave Urban a special coin that all Local 106 members carry, inducting him as an honorary member into the union.

“We’re sorry you got hurt, but we’re glad we could help you out,” Shipp said.

The builders even joked that Urban and his siblings might get a new toy out of the ramp.

“We told him we’d come back in a month and build him a jump at the bottom,” Sellinger said.