Community rallies to support local firefighter’s sons critically injured in crash

Samuel, left, and Joshua Lawrence are in recovery after suffering traumatic brain injuries earlier this month during a car crash in Florida.
Photo from Paul Lawrence

KEYSTONE — Community members are helping to raise funds to support Joshua and Samuel Lawrence, the sons of Summit Fire & EMS Lt. Paul Lawrence, who were seriously injured in a car crash earlier this month.

On Nov. 4, Joshua, 24, and Samuel, 18, were pulling into a Sam’s Club parking lot near Sanford, Florida, when they were struck by another vehicle on the passenger side of their car. Both suffered life-threatening traumatic brain injuries but are now on a long path to recovery.

“This has been the most difficult and trying time of our lives, but three things that we’ve held secure are our faith, our family and our friends,” Paul Lawrence said. “It’s amazing when you test those things and you see that they’re still in tact, even after this. Now our mission statement as a family is that time heals all wounds, and we’re trying to have patience and continual strength. But we definitely couldn’t do it without the thoughts and prayers of so many who have supported us. It reminds you of what’s really important.”

Lawrence said his sons were making a left turn when Joshua, who was driving, saw the car coming toward them and accelerated to try to prevent his brother from taking a direct hit. The other vehicle crashed into the back of their car and sent it spinning.

Lawrence said Samuel got out of the car and began walking around the crash scene to check on victims before passing out. He has no memory of getting out to try and help. Joshua was found unresponsive inside the vehicle and was extracted by rescue workers. The extent of their injuries was evident immediately.

“They were at death’s door,” Lawrence said.

Samuel was rushed into emergency surgery to repair a subdural hematoma, or bleeding inside the head. Joshua also suffered a subdural hematoma, but the bleeding stopped on its own and surgery wasn’t required. Joshua only recently woke up from a medically induced coma.

Both are still recovering in Florida.

Joshua is still in the intensive care unit and has just started opening his eyes and looking around the room. Lawrence said he believes he’ll make a full recovery.

“He was kind of lost in the woods for a bit,” Lawrence said. “And now he’s just starting to come out into open green pastures. … In the process of this, it’s amazing how many voices and opinions you hear. In the midst of all those voices, you hear the ones you know in your heart are true. Our neurosurgeon doesn’t mince words. She’s seen a lot and done a lot … and she said, ‘I’m expecting a full and complete recovery.’ It’s something that my wife and I have absolutely grasped onto.”

Samuel has moved into a hotel with his parents and is making quick progress.

“We do daily walks,” Lawrence said. “I call them short walks and long talks. His hearing is starting to come back now, and he’s got what he calls the ‘giant Braveheart’ scar on his head. He’s doing really well. He’s progressed quite a ways.”‘

What comes next is a long journey of physical and mental therapy to reach recovery. But the Lawrence family won’t be tasked with handling it alone. Their father said they’ve had plenty of support from individuals reaching out from around the country and the world — thanks to Joshua’s international mission trips — and he likened the management of family and friends coming to help out to an incident command scene at a wildfire.

Some of Lawrence’s old colleagues at Orange County Fire Rescue in Florida have set up a GoFundMe page to help the family out financially. The fundraiser is called “Firefighter Sons Joshua & Sam critically injured.”

“We’re setting up a new home and, of course, rehab,” Lawrence said. “I haven’t begun to wrap my head around the financial mountain ahead of us. But that’s really not as important as their recovery.”

Joshua and his younger brother Joseph were set to move into a new home in Florida when the crash occurred.

Joshua is a graduate of Southeastern University, and was set to start a career in real estate with his mother, Catherine, who works as an agent in Florida and Colorado. Lawrence said Joshua and Joseph were filmmakers and that the two have helped to raise money for Alzheimer’s research and other projects through their work.

Samuel recently graduated from high school and wants to join the military as a special operations pararescueman. Lawrence said they recently went on a trip to San Diego where he got to meet some Navy SEALs and that Samuel is still pursuing the goal by reading books on the subject while he rehabilitates. Lawrence said Samuel also has voiced a desire to enter the fire service after his military career and would likely attend Southeastern University’s ROTC program.

“My boys just have a heart for service,” Lawrence said. “They want to serve their country and help others.”

Lawrence, a 12-year veteran with Summit Fire & EMS, said he’s asking the Summit County community for their continued support of their family and of his colleagues at Summit Fire.

“There’s been a wave of support and love,” Lawrence said. “As far as the Summit County community, just send your thoughts and prayers, and support for my fire family going through all the COVID stuff up there. It would mean a lot for our family to see the Summit community keep themselves healthy and close to their families. That’s really poignant right now.”


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.