Aiken High graduate Alex Poda and two other members of the Limestone College men's tennis team recently earned praise for their quick response during an emergency at the Gaffney-based school.
“They did a great job,” Gaffney Fire Chief Jamie Caggiano told The Gaffney Ledger after the three students helped a Limestone employee, Chad Huskey, who was trapped underneath a lawn tractor when it turned over on a hillside.
During a phone interview with the Aiken Standard five days later, Poda discussed the afternoon incident in detail and his role in the rescue.
“I had been through the seminars and stuff that all kids go through on how to react during a crisis situation,” said the Limestone sophomore. “It's easy to tell people how to respond, but it's hard to actually respond. With the three of us being teammates, I think we were all kind of on the same wavelength, so that helped us coordinate what everybody was doing.”
Poda, George Green of England and Benji Lascari Diaz of Mexico were practicing on Limestone's tennis courts and didn't realize anyone was in trouble nearby until a ball was hit over a fence.
“We looked at where the ball was going, and George went to get it,” Poda remembered. “Peripherally, I saw the lawn tractor that had flipped over with Chad underneath it. It took a couple of glances before I realized what had happened. Then we started running toward him, and we heard him cry out a raspy 'help.' George called 911, I think.”
Poda's teammates tried to shift the tractor to alleviate the pressure from a roll bar that was on top of one of Huskey's shoulders. Meanwhile, Poda went to seek assistance from Limestone's Public Safety department.
“I probably ran the fastest that I've ever run in my life,” he said.
Before long, there were Public Safety and Gaffney Police Department officers on the scene, as well as paramedics, said Poda.
“Chad was conscious and talking, so that was good,” he said. “He was telling everybody where it hurt and what had happened. The three of us from the tennis team, a Public Safety officer and two or three police officers lifted up the tractor enough so the paramedics could tend to Chad and get him out from underneath it.”
The Gaffney Ledger reported that Huskey was taken to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center by an ambulance. He suffered multiple broken bones, Poda said.
Poda and his teammates know Huskey well because his duties include taking care of the tennis courts and the surrounding area.
“He does a great job with the landscaping; he's the reason why it's so beautiful around our tennis pavilion,” Poda said. “He watches our matches and is around at our practices. We all talk to him nearly every day.”
Poda and the other tennis players who assisted Huskey haven't seen him since the accident, but they've heard that he is getting better.
“He's been discharged from the hospital,” Poda said. “We bought him a card, got everybody on the tennis team to sign it and sent it to him.”
Poda added that he was relieved that Huskey wasn't hurt more seriously.
“I'm just glad we were there and able to help,” Poda said. “Chad was really lucky that he didn't have any life-threatening injuries because that tractor is very heavy. It could have been a lot worse.”
Poda is the son of Steven Poda of Aiken and Fran Smith of Tennessee.
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.