Rescue Squad 19 responds to bear-Jeep collision

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2023

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Around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, a 9-1-1 call went out to the Stumpy Point Volunteer Fire Department.

On that remote section of U.S. 264, a 2000 Jeep traveling southeast had collided with a bear. The Jeep then crossed the center line, went off the road, collided with the guard rail, rolled on top of the guard rail and landed upside down in the canal, according to information from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

Lafayette Merrick, 35, of Engelhard, the driver of the Jeep, was trapped. Rescue Squad 19 couldn’t see the car.

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According to an eye witness, when Stumpy Point Fire Chief Curtis Price arrived at the scene, an angry and injured bear was keeping rescuers in their car. Chief Price, without hesitation, dispatched the bear with a hand gun. A deputy and first responder jumped in the canal. The vehicle was in seven to eight feet of water. A wench cable was hooked up to the Jeep, which was pulled out of the water to retrieve Merrick.

Merrick was revived with CPR by a first responder and Dare Emergency Medical Services personnel, loaded into an ambulance and transported to the Stumpy Point Ball Field for a helicopter ride. He was found not stable enough and was transported by ambulance to The Outer Banks Hospital. From that hospital, he was flown to Norfolk General Hospital, in Norfolk, Va.

Merrick died on Sept. 20, 2023.

“I personally was so amazed by the efforts of our Chief, Curtis Price, and our entire rescue team,” writes an eye witness from Stumpy Point. “To save a life is one thing, but to do it in the face of a wounded and dangerous bear is above all expectations.”

Also responding to the wreck were Dare County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Andrew Creech and Deputies E. Glaser and D. Gibbs and a Dare County ambulance from Manteo. Deputy Glaser jumped in the water.

“This is what we do,” said Chief Price.