Injured bailiff returns to job

John Thompson • Aug 23, 2013 at 11:47 AM

ELIZABETHTON — A Carter County bailiff who suffered an eye injury March 1 while attempting to subdue a woman fleeing from the courtroom has returned to duty after a short medical leave of absence.

Bailiff Ernie Widby returned to work on Tuesday and spent the day providing security and maintaining decorum in Carter County Criminal Court. At the end of the long day, Judge Robert Cupp placed his arms around Widby and the judge told him he was glad to have him back at work.

The evidence of his injury was apparent. Widby’s right eye remains bloody and there is a large bruise under it. The injury happened when he was attempting to take Brittany Lauren Firzgerald, 23, 211 Bishop Road, Johnson City back into custody after she fled after being told she was going to be arrested for a probation violation. In his attempt to subdue her, Widby attempted to tackle her before she went out the back door, causing her to crash into a locked door and Widby to hit his eye on her as she came to a sudden stop.

Widby said he has been released from his doctor’s care. He said the doctor told him he had suffered an orbital blowout. Fortunately, he said the damage to the potatochip-thin bone was a only a fraction of an inch and should heal without further medical intervention.

“God is good,” Widby said. In addition to being a bailiff, Widby also serves as pastor of New Zion Faith Center, 127 Garden Drive, Johnson City. Although Widby was on medical leave from his job as a bailiff for the past week, he did not take any time off from his pastoral responsibilities.

Widby said his heroes in the incident last week were his supervisors Lt. Patrick Johnson, Capt. Tom Smith, Chief Deputy Ron Smith and Sheriff Chris Mathes.

“The professional level with which they handled my injury was so great,” Widby said. “They had a disc that had all my information that the emergency room needed. Within an hour everything was taken care of, my worker’s comp, the replacement for my broken glasses, everything.”

As far as his injury, Widby said there are deputies in the sheriff’s department who face much greater risks every day than he does and he preferred that his actions last week in bringing the woman into custody should be downplayed.

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