FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 11, 2016) — A busload of elementary and middle school students on their way home from a week of Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife conservation camp witnessed a single-vehicle wreck and then saw one of their camp counselors run to the vehicle and pull the unconscious driver to safety seconds before it burst into flames.
Conservation educator Clay Brummal was driving south on the Natcher Parkway near Hartford in Ohio County Friday shortly after 2 p.m. when he came upon a wrecked and mangled pickup just seconds after its driver had lost control and crashed.
He ran to the vehicle and found its driver badly injured, bleeding and unconscious.
“He did not respond when I tapped his foot,” said Brummal. “Then I saw the flames coming up out of the engine compartment and knew we had to get him out of there.”
Two other motorists arrived to help. State police say one of them was Edgar Mills of Bowling Green.
“The doors were jammed shut, but the driver’s side window was broken out,” said Brummal. “It took all three of us, but we pulled him up through that window and got him out of there. I could never have even budged him by myself.”
The flames spread quickly and completely engulfed the truck. “We got worried about an explosion and shrapnel, so we dragged him about 75 feet away,” said Brummal.
State Police said later that the driver, Jerry Crowler of Gordsville, Tennessee, was Life-Flighted from the scene to Vanderbilt University Hospital.
Kaelin McWilliams, a conservation educator accompanying the campers returning to their Hancock and Breckinridge County homes, said they had stopped along the northbound side of the highway to repair a flat tire on the luggage trailer behind the Miller Transportation bus when the students began exclaiming about the wreck.
“The wreck happened directly across from us. The campers saw it, and then they saw Clay pull up,” said McWilliams. “They all started shouting ‘Mr. Brummal’s here.’” They had just spent the last week with him at Camp Currie.
“In a crisis situation, Clay is definitely the type of person you want there,” said Information and Education Division Director Tim Slone. “He stays calm; he keeps his head about him. We practice and train to deal with emergencies at camp, and that clearly paid dividends here.”
Ohio County EMS Director Jim Duke said that it is extremely uncommon for a vehicle to ignite on contact and to have someone unconscious inside. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years and that’s a movie thing that just doesn’t happen in real life. (Brummal) was in the right place at the right time and he saved a life in Ohio County today,” he said Friday evening. “He got him out of that vehicle or he would have died.”
When State Police and ambulance personnel cleared, Brummal, who had slowed originally upon noticing the camp bus across the highway in the emergency lane, crossed the road and changed the luggage trailer’s flat tire.
“Not only did he rescue that injured driver, but he changed our tire and got us back on the road home,” said McWilliams. “He was definitely our hero.”