Responders debriefed after boy’s drowning

PUNXSUTAWNEY — When a tragedy occurs like the one Saturday, when a three-year-old boy from Clearfield County lost his life after falling into Mahoning Creek, it not only affects the family and friends of the victim, but it also affects the emergency responders who attempted to rescue him from the chilly waters of the creek.

Joshua T. Parkinson, Irvona, was playing with other children around 3:30 p.m. Saturday when he fell into Mahoning Creek and was pulled from the cold water near the South Penn Street Bridge by emergency responders from the Punxsutawney Fire Department and Jefferson County EMS.

The team performed CPR on Parkinson, who was taken to Punxsutawney Area Hospital where medical personnel attempted to revive him for almost two hours.

Following an autopsy performed Sunday, Jefferson County Coroner Bernard Snyder said Parkinson died due to drowning.

Snyder initially thought there may have been a possibility that Parkinson might have struck his head as he fell into the creek, but the autopsy revealed there wasn't enough trauma for that to be possible, he said.

According to the latest information available, it is believed the boy fell into the creek closer to Wendy's and was taken downstream by the strong current.

In the meantime, some of the first responders and ambulance personnel who were involved in the rescue attempt participated in a debriefing of the incident with trained counselors from the Emergency Medical Services Organization (EMMCO East) regional EMS council from Kersey Tuesday evening at the Lindsey Fire Hall.

Dale Leverknight, clinical director for Allegheny Highlands Regional Critical Incidence Stress Management Team (CISMT) from DuBois, led the discussion during the debriefing, which was not open to the public.
Leverknight said CISMT covers six counties, and all team members of EMMCO East are certified debriefing counselors.

It is voluntary, and there are teams located all over the world, he said.
Leverknight said his team has been lucky that it has only called out two or three times in the last six months.

Last July, there was a week where CISMT was dispatched five out of seven nights in one week debriefing emergency responders.

Leverknight said CISMT does not just debrief emergency responders; it has also gone to schools and assisted in the private sector at local factories where a co-worker may have died on the shop floor.

It always seems worse when a child is involved, Leverknight said, because emergency responders feel they should have done more to save him or her.

"It's normal for emergency personnel to second guess and replay the call over and over again in their minds," Leverknight said. "Once a responder realizes in their heart that they did everything they could, everything they were trained to do and put it in God's hands, that's the start of moving on."

Leverknight said he was not permitted to discuss Tuesday's debriefing session, but he knows CISMT debriefing does work.

"Wherever our team has been, the people involved are always grateful and ask me, 'where was this debriefing 20 years ago?'" he said. "I do believe this session will be helpful to those who attended the session at the Lindsey Fire Hall."

Leverknight said his work is not done, and his team will continue to be available to help anyone who requests it in the weeks ahead.

The investigation into Parkinson's death is continuing.