Wiggins dives for Rescue Squad
By BY LYDIA GRIMES Feature Reporter
It's a good thing that there are those who are willing to do the things that need doing. Some jobs are better than others and then there are those who do things most of us steer away from. One of those is a young man who just happens to be an important part of the Escambia County Rescue Squad.
Philip Wiggins is an underwater diver with the Rescue Squad, and his expertise is called upon in those situations where someone is trapped under water. He hasn't been a part of the squad for a long time but in that short period he has had the sad task of helping to pull victims who died a watery death from the river.
Wiggins then started diving for recreation in local ponds and rivers and gulf diving out of Destin, Fla.
Some of those things are not what most people want to be associated too closely with. Wiggins says that there are rays, turtles, eels and sharks swimming around the divers. As they are usually spear fishing, they have to be extremely careful about the sharks being attracted to their catch.
Wiggins' friend, Andy Bethea, is a long time member of the Escambia County Rescue Squad. One day in 2001 they went spear fishing above McGowin Bridge. He went to one spot and Bethea to another. After one dive Wiggins came up to find his friend sitting on a sandbar.
They managed to get to the car and after finally discovering the body they called the sheriff's office. The sheriff asked them to go back down and see what they could do until the Alabama State divers could get there to help get the car out of the river.
After this, Bethea asked Wiggins about staying on and working with the Rescue Squad. Wiggins thought about it and decided to stay with the Squad in order to use his training where it was needed.
A few weeks ago he was called to go to Conecuh County to search for a man who was missing. The assumption was that the man had been murdered and thrown in the water. Before he could get to the area, he had another call that the man had been found and dragged out of the water.
More recently, Wiggins was working in Covington County. On his way back to Brewton, he ran up on the police working near Parker Bridge. Monte McGougin, with the Escambia County Sheriff's Department, asked him if he could help.
A young man had been missing for a couple of days. Near the bridge there were skid marks made by some tires that led the search party to determine that he just might be in the water. McGougin asked Wiggins if he could dive and see if he could find anything. Another diver, Wayne Martin, and Wiggins went out on a boat to a spot where an antenna could be seen when the current allowed it.
The current took the truck down the river and it took another hour to find it. They hooked a line to it, but the rope came loose, and it drifted down the river again.
Wiggins was raised at Rock Creek, east of East Brewton. He was the middle child of Roy and Joy Wiggins. He has an older sister, Andrea Lucas, and a younger brother, Ben. His father works at Bondurant and his mother is Escambia County Tax Collector. He attended school at W.S. Neal and graduated in 1991. He was an active youngster, playing sports in school. He lived, and still does live, in the country and was in the outdoors a lot, hunting and fishing.
After high school graduation he attended Lurleen B. Wallace Community College for a quarter. He sat out the winter quarter and worked with his dad at Western Auto. In the spring, he went back to school in Andalusia to get a degree in forest technology. During this time he worked at Harold Brothers Veneer. He hoped for a job at Conecuh National Forest but there were no openings.
Wiggins graduated from LBW in 1994 with an associate degree in applied science of forest technology. He worked for a short time with Branco before going to Cedar Creek Land and Timber. He transferred to T.R. Miller Woodlands in January 1995 and has been there since. He cruises timber, working on private land to locate timber for T.R. Miller. He also marks timber for cutting on land within a 100 mile radius.
He married Rachel Roberson in 1995 and they have three children, Hannah (6), Callie (3) and Brian (1). His wife teaches first grade at W.S. Neal.