Brandon Gilbert says he never doubted his friend Scotty Moore would one day come home after being severely burned in a tragic accident at Grays Knob which required extensive medical treatment and intense rehabilitation at a specialized burn center in Augusta, Ga.
“I knew from day one he was coming back home to us,” said Gilbert late Friday night as he joined more than 100 volunteer rescue workers, family members and others to form a welcome home caravan for Moore which lined U.S. 421 from the Wendy’s exit to Harlan ARH Hospital.
Fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and other vehicles all greeted Moore with emergency lights flashing and sirens blasting as he arrived into Harlan County around 11 p.m. While he came home in a personal vehicle, he was rushed to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center by helicopter with life threatening injuries only a few days before Christmas.
“He is a strong-willed person,” said Gilbert. “He doesn’t know how to quit… I knew he would come home to us.”
Almost six months after the Dec. 12 accident, Moore was discharged Friday with approval to come home.
Harlan County Rescue Squad Member Chris Allen and firefighter Juan “Angel” Rivera said they also knew the day would come and they wanted it special for Moore.
Before 10 p.m., a section of the Village Center Mall parking lot was filling with emergency vehicles as supporters showed up to help mark the occasion.
“He’s excited to get home,” said Allen, who along with Gilbert and others made repeated trips to the burn center to offer encouragement to Moore.
Moore’s friend Juanita Cole stayed in touch with his mother, Rachel Creech, during the hours leading up to the return, trying to keep the plans a surprise. She talked to Moore on the cell phone, telling him to let her know when he got to Harlan that she was grocery shopping and would meet up with them if she hadn’t already finished and gone home.
Moore’s family was told shortly after he sustained the critical injuries that he only had a 3 percent chance of survival, Allen recalled.
“I can really feel for him,” he said. “The road he has traveled, I couldn’t have survived. There are not many of us who could do it.”
Allen said for an extended period doctors would only talk about chances for survival in terms of hours, not days or weeks.
“A 3 percent chance of surviving means only three out of 100 make it out of that situation,” Allen said. “There were others brought in who were not in as bad of shape as Scotty didn’t make it.”
“It has been a long trip, but he is headed home,” said Rivera. “This turned out great. This shows a lot of support for him and I know that means the world to him. For this to be a small town, this shows a great deal of support for Scotty.”
“He’s excited big time,” said Allen. “It is unreal how many people are here for him tonight.”
While Moore remained in his family’s vehicle during the gathering, tears of joy were shared by many.
His uncle, Willie Fee, attended.
“The reason he is here is God — the good Lord is the reason he is here,” said Fee, attempting to hold back tears. “He is the reason he came home to us.”
Gilbert said Moore told him how glad he is to be home, noting he still needs continued support as he faces repeat trips to Georgia and continued rehab.
“He knew something was up, but didn’t think it would be this big. We must all stand behind him and continue to support him. We have to keep pushing him. He still has a long road to go, but he can do it,” said Gilbert.
“This is a good day,” said Allen.
A fund is open at the Bank of Harlan to assist Moore with medical and travel expenses.
Jeff Phillips may be reached at 606-909-4146 or on Twitter @Jeff_hde