MIDLAND, TX (KWES) - A Midland Fire Department (MFD) firefighter is recovering in Lubbock after being in a 10-car pile up Sunday afternoon.
The accident happened on Highway 349 in Upton County between Midland and Rankin. The Midland firefighter, Phillip Koonce, was off-duty when the accident happened.
Koonce suffered very serious injuries, he's expected to be OK but has a long road to recovery. The Texas Department of Public Safety said there was zero visibility when the accident happened.
"It's tough, that boy's tough anyway, so he's gonna be back with us," said Captain Jeff Dickson with MFD.
Dickson works the same shift as Koonce, he was in denial when he heard the news.
"I was hoping someone was kidding," said Dickson. "I got a text from a third party before battalion chiefs and everyone got a hold of me and I was thinking, 'Is this guy kidding?'"
Koonce is a native Midlander, he's been with the department since 2014 and currently works at station 9. During the accident, it took about an hour to get him out of his vehicle. He's left with five broken bones, including both of his femurs.
Dickson said he saw Koonce after the accident and work was still on his mind.
"First thing he was worried about was making shift, he was supposed to be on standby, I told him we got it from here," said Dickson. "He was able to talk to me, communicate, his mental faculties are great."
Inside the vehicle with Koonce was his man's best friend, his dog Daisey. Unfortunately, Daisey didn't make it.
"Over at the station, we call her puppy Koonce," said Dickson. "His girlfriend brings that dog up, we play with him, so it's even rough on all of us. I can't imagine how rough it is, especially with all his injuries and all he's going though to hear that on top of everything else."
One of the firefighters picked Daisey up and a local vet is helping family with Koonce's loss. Several of the firefighters have gone to visit Koonce in Lubbock, making sure he knows they're fighting right by his side.
"We're just ready for him to get back, my heart goes out to his family, he has a great family, great support system right there by his side," said Dickson. "We're going to make sure someone is there the entire time."
If you want to help Koonce with medical expenses MFD encourages you to drop off or mail checks at the central fire station, 1500 W. Wall St., Midland, Texas, 79701. Please make checks out to "PFAM" and write "Koonce" in the memo line. MFD is also having a blood drive in Koonce's benefit on Monday, July 24 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the central fire station.