Friday, December 17, 2004

Heroes At Large.....

Most of you probably aren't aware there was a crash (video) that killed one driver and seriously injured 7 others near my home in MArysville on Wednesday. There are crashes every day we hear about on the roads. What made this one different is most police officers who responded to the seen, some 30 year veterens, say this was the worst wreck they had ever seen. One said, "When I arrived on the scene I couldn't imagine how ANYONE could have survived. I thought we were looking at multiple deaths."
This is just a reminder that basketball players, football players, musicians, actors....they are NOT heroes, they are icons. They come and go. Sometimes they leave their mark on society, other times we left them drift into a distant past. A hero is an ordinary person who does an extraordinary thing. This is one of those stories...and we should never forget people like this exist.
At the time of the accident a trucker happened to be driving home.
This is his story...

By Yoshiaki Nohara, Everettt Herald Writer
Children could be heard crying from inside the wreckage. Flames were licking the mangled cars. Plumes of acrid smoke filled the air.
Amid that chaos along I-5 near Smokey Point on Wednesday afternoon, about a dozen strangers came together to save four lives.
"It wasn't just me. It was everybody," said Jim Swett, 68, a truck driver from Sedro-Woolley.
The rescue was personal for Swett. He pried open a door on the destroyed Chevrolet Suburban. In the back seat were two children. Both had red hair.

Swett said his mind instantly went to the memory of his grandson Brandon, who died in a rollover accident four years ago in Whidbey Island.
The 15-year-old boy had red hair, too. He stood 6 feet, 1 inch. He was a bundle of energy.
His death left a hole in Swett's family. He would have given anything to be there to save him.
On Wednesday, the Sedro-Woolley man helped scoop the crying children from the Suburban.
But Swett insisted Thursday that he wasn't the only hero.
An off-duty firefighter hooked a towing rope to the Suburban. Others brought blankets and coats to warm the injured pulled from the four-vehicle wreck.
'Get me out of here!'
Swett was heading north on I-5 toward home. It was around 1 p.m. and he'd just delivered flowers and plants to a Woodinville nursery.
Near the Smokey Point exit ramp, Swett saw a few cars engulfed in flames and smoke. Immediately, he pulled into the center lane and put on his hazard lights. Swett, who wore a blue T-shirt and sweat pants, grabbed a crowbar and a fire extinguisher, and jumped out of the truck.
With a few men, Swett rushed to a burning car. He smashed the window with the crowbar, and they got a wounded woman out of the driver's seat.
"She was screaming, 'Get me out of here!'" Swett recalled.
Then, they rushed to the crumpled Chevrolet Suburban with five people trapped inside. A woman in the passenger's seat was dead. He heard two children crying in the back seat.
Swett used the crowbar to pry open the door to help the children. He doesn't remember whether they were boys or girls - (it was two boys, 9 and 12) - but their red hair caught his eyes.
Swett took one of them in his arms, memories of his grandson rushing through his mind.
By the time he and others rescued both boys, flames from another car threatened to spread to the Suburban. There were still two people trapped alive in the wreck.
"We were so afraid the gas tank would blow," he said.
An off-duty firefighter at the scene helped Swett tie a rope to the Suburban and to Swett's truck, to pull the wreck away from the flames.
Other people emerged from their stopped cars. Swett figures there were at least a dozen, some carrying blankets, others carrying coats. They wrapped the victims up, protecting them from the cold and shock.
"None of us were thinking of us," Swett said.
Firefighters and paramedics arrived and took over, bringing hope and relief to the onlookers.
"We knew we did everything we could do to help those people," he said.
Calm in a crisis
Swett drove back to Sedro-Woolley around 5:30 p.m. He and his wife, Jean, live on Brandon Lane, a private road named after their grandson.
Soon, family, friends and TV news reporters made their way to his door to hear his story.
Jean Swett said that in their 48 years of marriage her husband always has been someone who can stay calm in a crisis, identify what needs to be done, and do it.
"It doesn't surprise me he did what he did," she said.
Her husband was so focused at the accident scene that he didn't realize his arms had been burned by the heat from the fires until his took a bath in the evening.
Swett couldn't be there for Brandon four years ago. But he was there - along with a dozen others - for the Holschen family, when they needed help.