Off-duty Firefighter Saves Man Trapped Inside Vehicle

City of Cape Girardeau firefighter Joel Schmit was at his home on a foggy night when his neighbor’s son-in-law came to his house to notify him of an emergency. The son-in-law had just left Schmit’s neighbor’s house and was on his way to a Christmas party.

“He saw this vehicle flipped over on the side of the road on its top and saw that someone was in it,” Schmit said. “He came back up [to my house] after he told the guy he would be back.”

The man got the off-duty Schmit and his mother-in-law, who is a nurse, and together they traveled about half a mile on County Road 382 in Cape Girardeau County to the scene of the accident. The vehicle was a pickup truck sitting in a roadside ditch with a man trapped inside of it. The man had lacerations to his head, but the nurse couldn’t stop the bleeding since she couldn’t get to his head. The man’s arm was also pinned back underneath the truck.

Knowing that he had to free the man, Schmit went back to his home.

“While I was gone they stayed with him and took some cement blocks and some stuff laying around and they stabalized the vehicle so it didn’t roll over or hurt anybody else,” Schmit said.

Schmit said he figured the Gordonville Fire Department was looking at a 25 to 30 minute response time due to the location of the accident and the thick fog. Schmit retrieved his Porta Power and other tools went back to the scene.

“I also told my wife to make sure that she would call back to make sure someone was on their way and that they knew there was one person trapped so they could get the help we needed because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get him out or not,” Schmit said.

Using the hydraulic spreader function of the Porta Power, the truck was lifted off of the man and partially freed his arm. The nurse was also able to control the bleeding of the man’s head. By then the Gordonville Fire Departmet had appeared on the scene and used their tools to completely free the man’s arm.

“After we got it free, Cape came,” Schmit said. “Then we got the door off and pulled the guy out. For them guys not being on scene very long, they actually had him in the ambulance and on the way to the hospital pretty fast.”

Schmit said the key to the rescue was getting the man free enough to stop the bleeding before rescue vehicles arrived at the scene.

“It was super foggy out that day, so it was already going to be a 30-minute response time,” Schmit said. “You literally couldn’t see 30 feet in front of you. We knew we had to get him out to get the bleeding stopped to where they could just get him in the ambulance and go.”

Schmit said that the man was conscious and talking to his rescuers throughout. Although Schmit still doesn’t know the name of the man he rescued, he later found out that he went to St. Louis to receive treatment for his injured arm.

“If someone needs help I’m going to do whatever I can,” Schmit said. “That’s why we get into the profession, is to help people. So when I heard there was somebody trapped, I went and did what I could do with the training that we got.”