Police did not tell Jeff and Lucretia Kempson much about the death of their 23-year-old daughter this summer — only that she apparently lost control of her car on a rural Georgia road and slammed violently into a grove of trees.
They did not tell the parents that the injuries to their daughter were so severe that the scene on the side of the highway upset even responding firefighters. But the Kempsons did find out what happened to Dayna Kempson-Schacht, in a particularly awful way — from a cell phone video one of the firefighters took of the wreckage and of the mother of two’s mangled body.
"Oh, my God," one firefighter can be heard saying on the video, which found its way from the firehouse to a bar, and ultimately to Jeff Kempson.
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“I viewed the video and, without a doubt, it was our daughter Dayna,” Jeff Kempson told TODAY’s Ann Curry on Tuesday. “It was too terrible to put in words, really.”
The sight of their daughter's body, in the state that it was, understandably disturbed the Kempsons greatly. But as upset as they are that the video was taken and passed around to people who had no business seeing it, they are even angrier that the firefighters did not appear to be trying to help their daughter.
“I don’t know which one is worse. Seeing the video of my daughter, it hurts, because I didn’t want to see her that way,” Lucretia Kempson said. “But hearing [firefighters] with no urgency to see if she was OK really upset us.”
On the video, one firefighter calmly asks another to help him create better lighting. The Kempsons said that instead of being concerned about the quality of their macabre recording, the responders should have been seeing if there was anything they could do to help their daughter.
“If you listen to the video, it sounds like casual conversation,” Jeff Kempson said. “They’re discussing parts of the accident, but you just don’t hear them saying, ‘Let’s get in there and see if she's OK,’ ‘Let’s reach in and check for a pulse,’ ‘Let’s get this thing open and get her out of here.’ ... There was just no urgency there.”
In response to a complaint filed by the Kempsons, officials in Spalding County have confirmed they are investigating the incident, but otherwise have had no comment.
Should there be a law?
The Kempsons are hoping the incident will prompt an amendment to state law making it unlawful for firefighters and other emergency responders to even carry cell phones when responding to a call.
A change to a Georgia privacy statute passed this spring prohibits the release of videos like the one taken of Dayna Kempson-Schacht to the media by public agencies. The statute apparently doesn’t apply in the Spalding County case, however, because the firefighter was using a personal cell phone and did not release the video to the media.
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“It is so easy for this to happen to anyone. Any emergency responder on any scene, at any time, who is allowed to have a cell phone can take these videos,” Jeff Kempson said. “I think they should not even be allowed to have cell phones when they are out on these calls. They have their radios. They can communicate.”
The Kempsons can erase the video that was sent to them. But for Lucretia Kempson, who has had trouble sleeping since seeing the clip, the scene plays again and again in her mind.
“It’s hard closing your eyes because when you close your eyes, that’s what you see — Dayna laying in her car, and not being cared for the way she deserved,” she said.
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