Local first responders mourn deaths of two of their own due to COVID-19

Coronavirus

HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — Two communities in the Tri-State are mourning the loss of two first responders this week.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers in Cabell County, West Virginia, and police officers in Lawrence County, Ohio, are grappling with the loss of their own to COVID-19.

Both agencies say those they lost loved their jobs, and cared for the communities they served.

“We think we’re superman, and it can’t happen to us. We transport a lot of people. A lot of sick people. And unfortunately we didn’t have a good outcome,” says Gordon Merry, Director of Cabell County EMS.

Cabell County EMS is grieving for the loss of one of their own: 32-year-old Norma Ward.

“Unfortunately we had an EMT that succumbed to the COVID virus last night. She’d been with us for five years. She’s a mother of two children – one son, one daughter – and her husband,” Merry says.

Cabell County EMS placed a wreath in her memory on the station where she served. The flags are flying at half-staff as well.

“It’s rough, it’s very rough to lose someone that young,” Merry says.

Fellow first responders paid their respects:

“Police, fire, EMS, escorted her to the funeral home,” Merry says.

The Lawrence County Ohio Sheriff’s Office is also dealing with a similar tragedy.

“Deputy Boyd Blake has been an officer with us for just over 20 years, he’s been just a breath of fresh air from the day he came through the doors, always smiling and happy. Unfortunately, he contracted COVID and was hospitalized for that and unfortunately never made it out of the hospital and passed away,” says Sheriff Jeff Lawless of the Lawrence County Ohio Sheriff’s Office.

“…he’s been just a breath of fresh air from the day he came through the doors, always smiling and happy,” recalls Sheriff Lawless. (Image courtesy of the Lawrence County Ohio Sheriff’s Office.)

The Sheriff’s Office held a procession in Deputy Blake’s honor—assisted by local law enforcement agencies—and a wreath hangs in his honor, while flags fly at half-staff as well.

Both agencies say throughout the pandemic, contracting COVID-19 has been a risk for their first responders.

“You got to get to a call and react in a hurry and put your hands on people unfortunately and that puts us in a lot of danger with the viruses and diseases that we have today,” Sheriff Lawless says.

“Obviously there’s a risk, we’re transporting the people—there’s always a risk,” Merry says.

The agencies are honoring Norma Ward and Deputy Boyd Blake for their service.

They say they will be missed, and there has been an outpouring of support and condolences offered by the community.

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