When the 40-foot Aggie bonfire stack collapsed early on Nov. 18 at Texas A&M University, emergency and rescue workers from College Station and Bryan responded quickly to the scene. TEEX members of Texas Task Force 1, the state’s urban search and rescue team, were called out early that morning to assist in the search for Aggies still buried under the pile of logs. It was a long, tedious search and rescue procedure that continued for nearly 24 hours.
As many as 70 students were working on the bonfire stack at the time of the collapse. Twelve Aggies were killed and 27 were injured when the center pole cracked and the stack fell. TEEX employees joined local rescue teams who worked to free those trapped under the pile. The logs, which were tied together, had to be removed one at a time to prevent any further collapse.
“It was truly a team effort by everyone involved,” said Dr. Kem Bennett, TEEX director. “The TEEX members of Texas Task Force 1 were advising in the search and rescue, doing what they needed to do and knowing exactly what to do. We provided technical expertise and equipment as well as augmenting the rescue efforts. Teexans can feel a lot of pride because even the rescue staff from the Bryan and College Station fire departments were trained by our agency.”
Among the first rescue workers to arrive on the scene were Teexans Billy Parker, Pat Barrett, Todd Reynolds, John Coppernoll and Dr. Kem Bennett. Other TEEX staff, including Johnny Mendez, Rick Tye, John Ryan, Al Guarino, Jim Arnold, James Hyles, Mike Wisby, Ricky Jewel and Harvie Cheshire joined the rescue efforts, along with 28 recent graduates of the TEEX Recruit Firefighter Academy.
“TEEX exists to serve the citizens of the state of Texas and is honored to help the Aggie community,” Bennett added. “Our deepest appreciation goes out to all the dedicated TEEX personnel who gave selflessly of themselves to help in this time of tragedy. All of our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the students who died and were injured during this tragic event.”