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Carter Conley honored in national memorial service

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The late Magoffin County Rescue Squad Captain Carter Conley was honored in a national memorial service held over the weekend for fallen first responders.

The National EMS Memorial Service, which is held annually in the country’s capital, honors first responders killed in the line of duty, including if they died as a result of COVID-19 if they contracted the virus while also actively responding to calls.

Eric Johnson, who is on the board for the National Emergency Service and the executive director of Supporting Heroes, told the Independent he had been notified by several people after Carter Conley died, with their agencies able to provide financial support to Conley’s family, filing for federal benefits for his family and the agency, and submitting his name to the National EMS Memorial Service.

“Carter Conley qualified because he presumably contracted COVID in the line of duty,” Johnson said. “While it’s impossible to prove where someone contracts the virus, if a first responder is actively serving and catches COVID, it is presumed he or she got it while responding to calls because they can’t work from or social distance while doing their jobs.”

Johnson said they search for first responders who had died in the line of duty, honoring all that had been approved since last year, with a list totaling 72 first responders.

“Normally, it’s only about half of that, somewhere between 30 and 40 people who died in the line of duty, so the numbers are a lot higher,” Johnson said. “We honored 72 last year, as well.”

Of the 72 honorees remembered during Saturday’s service, 41 had COVID-19 listed as the cause of death.

During the service, Conley’s son, Robert Conley, was given a flag that had been flown over the U.S. capitol and a medallion with Carter’s name on it, and his name, photo, and general information was presented to those in attendance.

“This is important because people who go out and risk their lives routinely, which is what first responders do, going into other people’s emergency situations and putting their lives in danger, should be honored,” Johnson said. “Walking into an emergency is dangerous. Responding to wrecks on the roadway is dangerous. These people risked their lives and if that’s what caused their death, they need to be honored. It’s important to honor these folks and it’s important to honor their families.”

Edwin Carter Conley passed away at the age of 71 on September 12, 2021, after a lengthy battle with COVID-19. Conley was instrumental in the formation of the Magoffin County Rescue Squad, serving as a founding member and the captain until his death.

According to their records of honorees, only two others from Magoffin County agencies have been honored by the National EMS Memorial Service, which includes James E. Lowe and Johnnie Vanderpool, with G&B Ambulance Service. The two died in 1992 as they were making a routine patient transport when they hit a coal truck head-on.

The ambulance caught fire and both vehicles exploded and caught fire, killing all occupants. The two were honored by the National EMS Memorial Service in 1999.

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