Mo. firefighter recalls lifting SUV off injured driver

Firefighter Kevin Bacon said he'd been lifting weights when he got the call for the rollover

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

BALLWIN, Mo. — Firefighter Kevin Bacon could tell by the tone of the dispatcher's voice that the call was serious.

"I was on the ambulance that day, but the call was for a vehicle fire, so I grabbed my gloves right out of the gate," he said.

The driver had been southbound on Highway 141 that afternoon in July 2012 before he suddenly veered off the right side of the road. The SUV careened into a ditch, then went airborne, barrel rolling into a yard below the highway, on Green Lantern Lane.

Bacon's ambulance from West County Fire & EMS got there first. The Mazda Tribute was on fire with smoke so thick it was filling the back yard.

The SUV had landed upside down, and the driver was pinned underneath.

"I looked underneath the wreckage, and I thought, 'This guy's dead,'?" Bacon said. "He was folded in half, and he was a blue-purple color."

Bacon's partner, Cody Jennemann, ran to the front of the yard to tell the other firefighters to bring a longer hose.

Meanwhile, the fire was spreading quickly and starting to burn one of the driver's shoes.

So Bacon, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 230, picked up the more than 3,000-pound SUV and threw it on its side. Then he pulled the driver away from the vehicle.

"I'm extremely strong," Bacon said about being able to lift the SUV. "I had just lifted weights before the call came out. I think that helped because I was warmed up when I got there."

Bacon said that once he got the vehicle out of the way, the man's torso flipped back into a normal body position and his color improved.

"I saw his stomach move, and I thought 'Oh, this guy has got life in him.'?"

Bacon reached into the driver's mouth to clear his airway, and he gasped for air.

"I yelled, 'This guy's alive,'?" and we loaded him up and were moving," he said.

The driver, Norman Scherrer, 50, of Valley Park, had broken several ribs and his back in two places and had to have a stent placed in a heart valve.

"I basically was unconscious for a week," Scherrer said in a recent interview. "It was touch and go."

But Scherrer survived, and five months later he was back to work as a laborer for Missouri American Water Company.

"They say cats have nine lives; I don't know how many lives I have, but I know I used up one of them," Scherrer said. "I was very, very blessed to have lived through this one."

Scherrer said he didn't remember anything about the crash, but he described his rescuer as an extremely special hero.

"What he did was a miracle, is all I can tell you," he said. "I owe it to him."

Bacon, now 38 and a 14-year veteran, shrugged off the praise, instead saying that the most impressive aspect of the rescue is that it took only 11 minutes from the time they got on scene until they arrived at the hospital.

Bacon was awarded the Class II Silver Medallion from the Greater St. Louis Fire Chiefs Association in 2012 for his efforts. It's the group's second-highest award.

But he said knowing that Scherrer was walking, talking and back with his children was better than the award.

"That's what this job's all about," he said. "It's why we come to work."

Copyright 2013 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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