INDEPENDENCE, Ky. -- The Staffordsburg Road crash that swept Nancy Dishman's family out from under her -- son, his fiancee and three young grandchildren all killed when a drugged driver struck their car -- hit first responders nearly as hard.
The Oct. 29, 2017 deaths of 26-year-old Rodney Pollitt, 27-year-old Samantha Malohn, 9-year-old Hailieann Pollitt, 8-year-old Brenden Pollitt and Callie Pollitt comprised the largest single-vehicle fatality the Independence Fire Department had ever witnessed.
"We typically win at what we do," firefighter Kenny Harney said days later. "You know, we typically always go out and we're able to help. I'd say the percentages are in our favor. But that particular run, we … I feel like we lost, you know? We lost because there was not a whole lot we could do."
The year that followed the crash, however, proved there was. Dishman and other surviving members of the victims' families continued to message the firefighters, who held a fundraiser to help pay for funeral expenses.
Police officers' testimony also played a key role in ensuring the man who hit the Pollitts' car, Daniel Greis, went to prison for it. He had been drunk and driving 86 mph in a 55 mph zone when he crossed the yellow center line and totaled the family's sedan, according to prosecutors. That "extreme human indifference" earned him a sentence to 20 years in prison.
"It brought us all so close," Dishman said. "It's like we lost a family, but we gained a family."
On the first anniversary of her son's death, she and other members of that makeshift family gathered at the Northern Kentucky Saddle Club to commemorate the searing event that brought them together and the friendships they'd built on a shared foundation of despair.
There were hugs. There was beer. The surviving Pollitts presented firefighters with a plaque thanking them for their efforts.
"It's just astronomical how they've been there for us through the trial and everything else," said Michael Mills, Malohn's father. "It's just hard, but we try to get through it every day."