The news of the tragic riding lawnmower accident that severed 2-year-old Ireland Nugent’s ankles shook the entire Pinellas community. Sunstar Paramedics Christopher Jennings and Jay Horne were among the first emergency responders on the scene that day.
As a father of two young children, this call really hit close to home,” said Horne. “We’re trained to handle any situation, but calls involving children really have a way of tugging at your heart strings.”
During the ambulance ride to meet the Bayflite helicopter crew that would transport Ireland to the hospital, Chris helped the scared little girl stay calm and alert by asking her to make silly faces. When Ireland refused to smile, Chris fondly remembers coaxing her to stick her tongue out at him instead.
Ireland’s mother Nicole Nugent was relieved by Chris’ exceptional attention and care said, “He was there for us when our family needed him most; we’ll forever be grateful.”
Both Chris and Jay recall the day with great emotion. After swiftly transferring Ireland to the capable hands of the Bayflite crew, the shaken Paramedics made their way to a church parking lot to catch their breath and shed a few tears over not knowing what was next for the severely injured little girl.
Yet, that fateful night would not be the last time Chris and Jay would see Ireland. A fighter with an outpouring of community support and love from her family, Ireland is now back to being a normal little girl thanks to her new prosthetic legs.
In happier spirits, Ireland paid a visit to Sunstar’s offices with her five siblings by her side to show off her astonishing progress and to give hugs to Chris and Jay along with the other first responders who came to her aid that tragic evening.
“I’m not an emotional guy, but it’s awesome to see her doing so well,” said Jennings. “It’s good closure for us.”
We’re all so proud of Chris and Jay,” said Debbie Vass, RN, EMT-P Sunstar Paramedics Chief Administrative Officer. “Their emergency response skills were really put to the test that night, and they responded with the highest level of calm and competence under pressure.”
Sadly, just a few short weeks following the emotional reunion with Ireland and her family, Chris was killed in a motorcycle accident on his way home from work.
“He absolutely was our hero and still is our hero. I mean he saved our baby,” said Nicole Nugent, Ireland’s mother. “He was making faces in the back of the ambulance with her and just trying to get her to be as happy as she could be in that moment.”
“He had such a life ahead of helping people and doing the things that he loved,” said Ireland’s grateful father Jerry Nugent.
Chris will forever remain in our hearts as an example of what it means to live every day dedicated to selfless service to others. He has left behind an esteemed legacy in Ireland and with every life he saved over the course of his exceptional career.