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Helping First Responders Cope After Especially Difficult Calls

BEAR CREEK TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- First responders said the wreck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Luzerne County on Tuesday that left two people dead and two others hospitalized was especially horrific.

After what those emergency workers saw, the county is helping them with counseling if they want it.

A lot of emergency workers say these difficult situations are just a part of the job, but sometimes these incidents are hard not to take home.

It was the kind of call no first responder wants to have: a flipped SUV on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Bear Creek.

Two people from New Jersey died and two others were hurt.

First responders said it was an especially difficult crash to deal with because the scene was so awful.

"I feel terrible. I can only imagine what they were going through when it happened, and the next couple of days will be terrible for them, so my prayers go out to them,” Chief Engineer of the Edwardsville Fire Department Jack Bonczewski said.

Emergency workers in Edwardsville said they can relate.

29 years ago in nearby Larksville, there was a deadly fire that stays with them to this day.

“You try to put it behind you, but you can't,” Bonczewski said.

Two children died in that fire in 1989. It happened the day after Christmas.

David Prohaska of Trans-Med Ambulance remembers it like it was yesterday.

"I was one of the people to help carry the bodies out of those children, and it still affects me today,” Prohaska said.

Calls such as that in Larksville and the crash on the turnpike can have lasting impacts.

“We did lose some members eventually. People just weren't the same after that incident. It's hard,” Prohaska said.

Luzerne County 911 reached out to emergency responders who were on the scene of that wreck in Bear Creek Township to let them know there's counseling available if they need help.

“There are special teams out there, critical incident stress debriefing teams, that we know who to contact. They bring people in, people with psychology backgrounds, too, that can understand and help you get through it,” Prohaska said.

If there’s one piece of advice Prohaska has for the first responders who answered the call in Bear Creek Township, it’s this.

“Get help. Talk to people. Don't keep it bottled up inside. That makes it harder. If you're able to talk to someone, especially someone who has had an incident similar and they can relate to that, it helps you get through it,” Prohaska said.

We reached out to the fire chief in Bear Creek Township. He didn’t want to speak with Newswatch 16 on camera but said this was a tough crash for the department. His members know there is counseling if they need it.

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