‘People need to slow down:’ Firefighter was lucky to survive crashes with drivers going almost 100 MPH

Posted in :


A DeKalb County firefighter says a recent commitment to fitness and a healthy lifestyle may have saved his life when a driver that nearly topped 100 miles per hour crashed into him head-on.

Captain David McBrayer, a 14-year firefighter for DeKalb County, is at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta recovering from serious spinal injuries that will require a long recovery.

“I can barely lift this arm and I can’t walk,” Cpt. McBrayer said from his hospital room. “I’m paralyzed from the chest down.”

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

McBrayer told Channel 2 Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Matt Johnson that over the last two years, he’s lost a hundred pounds and gained the strength he’d never had before.

“I was exercising and working out daily,” he said. “I’m coming up on one year of being alcohol-free.”

He needed every bit of that strength when Gwinnett County police said an out-of-control driver crashed into him head-on at 96 miles per hour.

“I might not have survived the accident had I not started the whole fitness journey,” he said.

The crash happened June 11 as he was heading home on Centerville Rosebud Road at around 10 in the morning in Snellville near Haynes Circle. Investigators say Axel Gutierrez-Ramirez lost control and crossed into McBrayer’s lane, causing a crash that damaged his spine.

“Some doctors, you know, say up to five years to fully recover from this type of injury,” he said.

It’s a long road ahead but he has a lot of support, even from other departments.


Gwinnett County firefighters were there at Northside Hospital Gwinnett last week to support McBrayer as he headed off to the Shepherd Center.

“I want to put in as much work as I can to heal as fast as I can,” he said, “but definitely having that support is huge.”

Gutierrez-Ramirez faces a felony serious injury by vehicle charge on top of several misdemeanor traffic charges for the crash. Warrants were issued for his arrest on June 22. He had not yet been booked into the Gwinnett County Jail.

McBrayer says he forgives the driver who hit him and holds no ill will. He says he’s relying on his faith in God through his latest journey, but he hopes others will take fewer things in life for granted.

“Life can change in the blink of an eye,” he said, “and that is so true. I think people need to slow down in general.”

His family is raising money for medical expenses that could last for years to come.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]