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Pallbearer jumped to call, using deputy’s car radio

[2/10/04]It was the voice of a citizen over the radio Monday that told Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace that something was desperately wrong.

“9-1-1,” the man’s voice called out.

“9-1-1, an officer’s been hit by a car. Send help,” he said.

The call at 11:37 a.m. was made from Warren County Deputy Mike Hollingsworth’s patrol car radio outside Green Acres Cemetery on U.S. 80 moments after he was struck. Pace said he immediately knew it was bad.

“When it came across the radio, and I could tell it was a citizen, I just knew in my gut that one of my deputies was in trouble,” Pace said.

The man who picked up the microphone in the deputy’s car was Terry West, a pallbearer riding in the funeral procession for which Hollingsworth had been directing traffic.

“Nobody had a cell phone, so I just jumped out and used his radio,” said West, a 24-year employee of the Vicksburg Wastewater Treatment Plant.

West spent only a few seconds on the radio, but set into motion emergency services and police response. Although West had no formal training for radio use, Pace said the call was clear and professional, and the sheriff was grateful.

“He used the fastest way to get 911,” Pace said.

E-911 dispatchers sent ambulance, fire and rescue personnel in response to the call. Kelly Worthy, chairman of the 911 commission, said that despite the nature of the call, dispatchers handled it like any other.

“It was an unusual call, but then we heard that an officer was down,” Worthy said.

He said dispatchers knew something was wrong because it wasn’t Hollingsworth’s voice coming from his radio, identified on dispatch equipment.

“It really gets your attention when that happens,” Worthy said.

Moments after West’s 911 radio call, dispatchers got nine, simultaneous calls and four radio calls.