WILLIAMSON — Under a cloudless blue sky with the sunshine beaming down, STAT Ambulance EMT-B Chris “Gomer” Staggs took his last ride in an ambulance with his former boss and EMS partner Woody Meddings at the wheel. Paramedic Chip Ball, who had been friends with Staggs for many years and had worked alongside of him for the past year rode in the back with him as they made the journey to the family cemetery that would be his final resting place.
Staggs passed away on Saturday, Nov. 24, after being involved in a one-vehicle accident that occurred after he allegedly experienced a seizure while behind the wheel. Staggs had no history of any medical problems in the past and was not taking any medications. After being transported to Williamson Memorial Hospital, Staggs regained consciousness but experienced another seizure a few hours later from which he did not recover. Toxicology screens performed as part of his medical work-up and as the protocol for STAT Ambulance when an employee is involved in an accident produced negative results. No medications were detected in his system. The official autopsy results identifying the exact cause of Stagg’s death are still pending and may take 6-8 weeks to be released.
At approximately 11:45 a.m. on Thursday, Mingo County 911 dropped the tones that Staggs had responded to for the past 13 years, as a fitting tribute to a man whose life ended far too soon. Dispatcher Willis Spence read touching words over the air, speaking of what a dedicated employee Staggs had always been and of the kind heart that he would always be remembered as having.
Well over 300 people gathered inside the Williamson Field House for the funeral of Staggs including EMS personnel, fire fighters and first responders from all across the state as well as several from Kentucky. A fire department honor guard traveled from Union, WV to perform the traditional folding and presentation of the flag to the widow and 2 children that Staggs leaves behind. Employees from STAT Ambulance and TMK Securities, where Staggs worked as a security guard, carried the casket from the entrance of the field house to the rear of the ambulance and stood at attention for a moment of silence as they said their final goodbyes.
The Williamson and Chapmanville Fire Departments brought their ladder trucks and stationed them on U.S. 52 at the bottom of the exit ramp of U.S. 119, where they were joined to hold a large American Flag that the funeral procession drove under. Approximately 25-30 ambulances, fire trucks and other emergency response vehicles fell into line behind the STAT Ambulance that carried Staggs’ body. Logan County Ambulance Service (LEASA) and a crew from the Dunlow Fire Department (Wayne County) covered the emergency calls in Mingo County during the funeral for their fellow EMS worker, so that all STAT employees could attend the service.
Stagg’s, a 13 year veteran employee with STAT, was the brother-in-law of Joey Carey, STAT Critical Care Paramedic and Supervisor, and the son-in-law of Paramedic Rebel Carey. They asked that their gratitude and thanks be extended to everyone who helped in any way during this tragedy, and said it was humbling to see the EMS community made up of individuals across the Tri-State area come together in such a united fashion. They remarked that without everyone’s assistance, they would have been at a loss of what to do and how to accomplish and pull everything together that had to be completed before the full EMS service could take place.
STAT Paramedic Chip Ball had this to say about his former partner and friend:
“Today we gather to mark the passing of a remarkable man. Chris Staggs was a wonderful husband and father, friend and dedicated professional. In so many ways, Chris exemplified what each of us seeks to be. He was strong, compassionate, dedicated and loyal. His devotion to work showed in every action he took. Whether he was providing care or protecting those in his charge, he was always a caring professional and was determined to do the very best job he was capable of performing. Chris loved nothing more than he loved his family. Everything he did was centered on his focus of being the best dad and husband he could be. No one that ever spent any time around Chris can say they didn’t hear of his love for his family. His sense of humor and his easy going nature made him a joy to be around. Though he is grieved by his family, co-workers and community at large, his legacy will always remain in our memories and will be relayed to generations of EMS workers yet to come. We will carry him with us always.”
“This is such a loss for us,” stated Doug Goolsby, a former STAT Paramedic who is now employed with the Mingo County Emergency Services and is also a volunteer for the WFD. “No one will ever take his place in our hearts or in our minds.”
Woody Meddings, the former supervisor for STAT that was asked to driver Staggs on his last journey following the funeral summed up his feelings for the deceased EMT-B with one simple statement; “He was one of my boys.”
As the funeral procession began its departure from the Williamson Field House parking lot, sirens sounded, the Health-Net helicopter flew circles around the area and every firemen and EMS worker within viewing sight of the ambulance carrying their friend stood in silence, saluting a man they all loved, admired and respected.