By Jacob Mahaffey
For first responders, law enforcement, firefighters, and EMS workers, there is always an air of danger that hangs upon every shift worked. When the uniform is donned or the pager goes off, deep in the back of the mind is a small voice. It is a voice that wonders, will this be the time I get hurt or worse.
For Sergeant Joseph Clark of the Mount Eaton Police Department that shift was June 30. That night while performing routine traffic control after the Paint Township Firemen’s Festival, Clark was struck by a car. “The last thing I remember is the fire department letting off some of the left-over fireworks,” Clark explained.
Clark, 51, and a native of Baltic, is a 15-year veteran of law enforcement. He began his career with the Baltic Police Department, working his way up through the ranks from patrolman to obtaining the rank of Sergeant. When the village discontinued the Police Department in 2012, he was hired at the Mount Eaton Police Department where he has been ever since. Clark has also been a member of the Glenmont Police Department Auxiliary for his entire 15-year career.
However, law enforcement has only been a part-time position for Clark. He also works for Oak Pointe Nursing and Rehab as the Maintenance Director full-time.
On June 30, he was tasked with directing traffic at the intersection of State Route 250 and State Route 94. Looking up to see the fireworks is the last thing Clark remembers of the event. He does have a brief recollection in the back of the ambulance and then another of taking off in the helicopter. His memory begins to kick in again in the ER at Summa Akron City Hospital.
While the events were tragic, luck was on Clark’s side as his partner for the evening had paramedic training. There was also a nurse close by when the accident happened. They immediately jumped into action to provide first aid for Clark. The initial 911 call came in at 11:09 p.m. and members of the Paint Township Fire Department were there almost immediately. Clark was flown to Akron with serious injuries.
Clark’s wife, Jennifer, was visiting with friends at Wayne County Speedway that night. “11:00 at night you get a weird phone call from an unknown number,” she shared. “There was a man on the other end of the phone who said ‘I have your son, there’s been an accident.” Clark’s youngest son, was standing on the side of the road by the intersection when the accident happened, was immediately taken to the Police Department. Jennifer rushed to the scene.
“When we got there, I jumped out of the truck and took off running,” she explained. “I remember the big puddle of blood lying in the middle of the road.”
Clark was admitted to the hospital and placed in the Intensive Care Unit. He had two subdural hematomas and a concussion. He stayed at the hospital for two days before being released to start his recovery process.
The bruises have started to fade and the soreness from the impact and trauma is improving. However, he still suffers from double vision, a side-effect of the hematomas.
It is getting better though. Clark hopes to return to work eventually. He is just waiting on clearance from the doctors.
Clark has received an outpouring of support from the community. “I have gotten a lot of letters and cards of support from the community,” he stated.
He has also received an outpouring of phone calls, just to check on him. “One of the officers brought Joe’s truck home the Sunday after,” Jennifer added. “Someone had put a letter on it while it was parked over there.”
The Wayne County FOP recently hosted a dinner with a 50/50 drawing. “We got half of that money,” Clark said. He is grateful for the support he has received after the accident. “I just want to thank the community,” Clark added.
Even after the ordeal, he has been through, Clark has no plans to hang up his badge. “It’s just one of those things that happens,” he said.
If you would like to send support and encouragement you can do so through the Mount Eaton Police Department, P.O. Box 279, Mount Eaton OH 44659.
This story originally appeared in the August 1, 2018 edition of The Budget. For more news, pick up a copy of this week’s edition available Wednesdays at area retailers. Better yet, subscribe and the news will be delivered to you each week. For more information, call us at 330-852-4634.