August 13, 2008 Edition

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Lt. Stan Finley of the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department photographs the scene of the Hwy. 412 accident that critically injured Ben Brand of Walnut Ridge on Thursday.
TD Photos ~ Gretchen Hunt

Quick response saves Brand's life

This was the truck that Ben Brand was driving when another vehicle, merging onto Hwy. 412 from the Hwy. 67 bypass, failed to yield the right-of-way.
John Bland

Five days after a near-fatal automobile accident, Ben Brand of Walnut Ridge was showing rapid improvement, and his prognosis for recovery is good. He was to be moved by today from the trauma intensive care unit to the step-down or standard intensive care unit at The Elvis Presley Trauma Center ~ The Med in Memphis, where he is a patient.

Brand is a well-known singer and guitar player locally and throughout Northeast Arkansas. His parents, Keith and Tonda Brand, attribute the quick response of medical and emergency personnel for saving their son's life.

"His prognosis is good, and he is improving on an hourly basis," Keith said. Ben has no paralysis and is now talking, sitting up and eating food, he added.

Keith explained that the accident probably occurred between 3:45 and 3:50 p.m. on Thursday, and after emergency medical personnel arrived, it took approximately 15 to 20 minutes for them to stabilize Ben. By that time, a dispatched Medic One helicopter had landed at the accident scene, and Ben was loaded up and flown directly to The Med.

The Brands were told that only 11 minutes passed from the time the chopper landed on the helipad until Ben was taken to the operating room. The Med's chief of neurosurgery was on call and performed the one-and-a-half hour surgery.

The emergency surgery was needed to remove a blood clot and to relieve pressure in Ben's brain due to a severe blunt force trauma head injury. The accident also left him with three fractured vertebrae, but it is believed that no surgery will be needed for these injuries.

Ben's condition remained critical until Saturday when he was taken off a ventilator, and his condition was upgraded to stable.

"Please express how grateful we are to all those who assisted at the accident," Keith said. Among those they wished to thank included the Walnut Ridge firemen and Chief Alan Haskins, the first responders, Gary Goff, Arkansas Excellent Transport, Shelly James of Medic One, who were paged at the scene, the Walnut Ridge Police Department, Sheriff's Department, the Arkansas State Police and others who were there.

"We were informed the next morning that their quick response saved his life," Keith said.

He noted that two of Ben's friends, Cody Jones and Derek Smith, were near the scene of the accident and called 9-1-1. They stayed with Ben until emergency personnel arrived.

"We're also thankful for the calls, visits, prayers and support of friends and family," Keith said. "People have been so good to us and supportive. It's been unbelievable."

A room full of Ben's friends gathered at The Med and remained for hours ~ waiting until they learned his condition improved. Keith noted that many of Ben's friends in Paragould, where he frequently performs, have been extremely kind and supportive.

The Brands also had plenty of praise for The Med. "You just can't imagine what a necessary place ~ and what a great place ~ this is," he said.

Details of accident reported

A two-vehicle accident on Thursday afternoon resulted in injuries to both drivers, according to Trooper Jeremy Conner of the Arkansas State Police.

Benjamin Brand, 21, of Walnut Ridge was airlifted to The Med in Memphis for serious injuries, while Robert Holloway, 57, of Jonesboro was transported by ambulance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Walnut Ridge with minor injuries.

According to Conner, the accident occurred at approximately 3:53 p.m. when Holloway, who had been traveling south on Highway 67 in a 2008 GMC 2500 pickup, pulling an empty horse trailer, attempted to pull onto Highway 412 from the Highway 67 exit ramp.

Brand, who was driving a 2002 Dodge pickup was traveling westbound on 412, when the Holloway vehicle pulled out in front of him.

"The front of Brand's vehicle struck the left side of Holloway's vehicle," Conner said. "Brand then veered off the road and struck a utility pole and came to rest in a ditch."

Holloway's vehicle also left the highway and both the truck and trailer rolled onto their tops. Both vehicles were off the eastbound lanes of traffic.

Traffic was delayed as a result, with the two eastbound lanes closed for approximately an hour, and all four lanes closed for about 30 minutes while the helicopter picked up Brand at the scene.

Conner said both vehicles were a total loss, and several road signs and a Craighead Electric utility pole were damaged, as well.

Other agencies responding to the scene included the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department, the Walnut Ridge fire and police departments, Arkansas Excellent Transport and Medic One ambulance services, as well as Medic One's medical helicopter.

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