A Nova Scotia volunteer firefighter has experienced every parent's nightmare after being called to an automobile accident and discovering his son had been badly injured in the crash.

Five people were injured in the head-on collision on Old Guysborough Road at Antrim Road on Saturday afternoon.

Kenny Bell of  Middle Musquodoboit was at a family Boxing Day dinner when his pager went off at about 4:00 p.m.

He said he decided to take the call even though he didn't have his gear with him, adding the department is understaffed so he didn't want to ignore the page.

Bell said firefighters from several departments responded.

"There were probably three other departments there. There was quite a crew of people there when we got there," he said.

Since Bell didn't have his gear with him, he was limited in what he could do.

"I couldn't really be involved in the scene, so I just supported. I just hauled the hose out, pulled the jaws of life, our rescue gear out because they had to cut both cars open," he said.

No one at the call knew it was Bell's son, Bobby, 21, involved in the crash.

'That looks like Bobby's car'

"I was there for maybe half an hour or 45 minutes before I got to looking at the car and I said 'that looks like Bobby's car' and I started piecing together that he was late for the supper," he said. "I poked my head in the car and seen it was him and that's when my first responder role kind of ended right there."

Bell said his son was alone in his car.

Nova Scotia RCMP Sgt. Ken Copeland said four people, two men and two women, were in the other vehicle. All of them were in their early 20s he said.

"When our guys got there yesterday, there were two females lying on the road, one male was trapped in the car — the guy that was by himself — and they had to get the life-flight out there to medivac him in," Copeland said.

All five people were sent to hospital. One was treated and released, four remain in hospital and three were sent to Halifax for further treatment.

Bell's son had surgery overnight to repair a broken wrist, a leg broken in three places and a shattered kneecap.

Bell said his son's 's wrist was broken when his hand hit the car's gearshift. It had been shoved forward when the car's engine was pushed into the driver's seat by the impact of the crash. 

Cause unknown

Copeland said a car was passing a truck when the collision occurred. He said speed and alcohol were not factors in the crash.

A traffic analyst was on the scene for several hours investigating and Copeland said the vehicles will also be studied in the coming days.

Charges could be laid, Copeland said.

"That is still to be determined," Copeland said. "We know it was a head-on collision and there were three witnesses to it."

Bell gets emotional remembering the moment he recognized his son in the wreckage.

"You can tell it's hard for me, but I just wanted to make sure he was OK," he said. "I knew he was talking to them and stuff, but I wanted to know the extent of his injuries.

Training paid off

"As a first responder, I go to them things every so often, so once I figured out he wasn't paralyzed or nothing major or life-threatening, I sort of settled down."

Bell credits his training for helping keep his emotions in check during the call.

"I was never in that position before, never one of my own, but I think I held it together fairly well really," he said.

Bell said his son works in the construction industry and was off work for the winter. Bell said he figures he and his wife will be looking after him in the coming weeks.

"He's young and strong," he said. "He'll be back up soon hopefully."