Daughter wanted to be like her dad

By Phil Anderson
Topeka Capital Journal – April 12, 2014

At 18 years old and a month from graduating from Seaman High School, Emma Jo Pisocki had set her dreams on following in her father’s footsteps.

She was going to be a firefighter and a paramedic.

On Friday, Pisocki and her father, Jason D. Pisocki, took a major step in that direction as they drove to Hutchinson. Emma was enrolling in Hutchinson Community College’s fire science program, which would benefit her in her chosen profession.

“She was looking forward to being a firefighter and working with our department,” said Soldier Township Fire Department Chief Karl McNorton.

But on the way home from Hutchinson on Friday afternoon, tragedy struck, as Emma Jo and her father were killed in a head-on crash in Ottawa County, about 3 miles east of the town of Bennington.

News of the deaths reached Topeka quickly and shook the Soldier Township Fire Department — where Jason was a volunteer firefighter and Emma was the chief of an explorer post based there — as well as the Seaman High School community.

McNorton said Emma Jo was about a month away from achieving certification as an emergency medical technician.

Her father, who was a plumber by trade and worked for McElroy’s, served as a volunteer firefighter the past five years with the Soldier Township Fire Department.

Emma Jo and her father were very close, as evidenced by the many pictures she posted on her Facebook page, some featuring the pair clowning around.

Yet there were more serious photos, as well, including one in which both were wearing firefighter uniforms while standing outside the Soldier Township Fire Department.

McNorton said Jason was an invaluable member of the department, and would pull a rotation as shift officer when needed. McNorton said Jason was giving some thought to becoming a firefighter full-time at some point down the line.

“It’s a tremendous loss to us,” McNorton said. “Besides the friendship, we lost a very skilled individual. It’s going to be felt for a long time.”

The Soldier Township Fire Department has 39 firefighters on the roster, 35 of whom are volunteers and four of whom are full-time.

McNorton said the past couple of months have been especially difficult ones for the Soldier Township Fire Department, which typically acts as the first responder on accidents north of Topeka in Shawnee County.

On Feb. 23, fire crews were first responders on a fatal accident involving Alayna L. Hutchison, a 15-year-old Seaman High School sophomore, who died that Sunday night in a crash at 5246 N.W. Rochester Road. A passenger in the car she was driving, Jalen B. Heald, 16, was seriously injured.

Then, about two weeks later, Soldier Township crews had to work another fatal accident, this one on March 10 in the 3700 block of N.W. Rochester Road in which 33-year-old Brian L. Riley died. A passenger in his car, 1-year-old Kylynn Gunter, was revived at the scene but later died at a Kansas City hospital.

McNorton said “we’ve had some good support from the community,” but allowed the firefighters were still processing what they’d been through the past two months.

Then came news of the Pisockis’ deaths, which he said is having “a tremendous emotional impact” on the firefighters.

“Our department expresses our sorrow very deeply to the Pisocki family,” McNorton said. “They are part of our family. Their loss is our loss, and we really feel for them.”

Seaman High School administrators and counselors met with students on Saturday morning at the school. Counselors were made available for the students and teachers.

The crash that killed the Pisockis occurred at 4 p.m. Friday on K-18 highway, a two-lane road about three miles east of Bennington.

The patrol said a vehicle was parked along the north edge of K-18 highway and was partially in the westbound lane of travel.

A 2014 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck moved from the westbound to eastbound lane to avoid the parked vehicle, and in the process struck a 1998 Plymouth Neon head-on. The Neon was being driven by Emma Jo.

The patrol said both Emma Jo and her father were wearing seat belts. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the Silverado, Jason Leroy Jeardoe, 35, of Bennington, was reported to have suffered disabling injuries and was taken to Salina Regional Hospital. Jeardoe also was wearing a seat belt.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

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