Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hero after Flying Pickup Lands; St. Augustine Man Moves Quickly to Help Injured Driver on Tennessee Road

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hero after Flying Pickup Lands; St. Augustine Man Moves Quickly to Help Injured Driver on Tennessee Road

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski

John Whetstone of St. Augustine lost his wedding band, but he helped save the life of a stranger whose pickup truck careened down a 60-foot ravine after becoming airborne as it crashed over a guardrail on a rain-slicked Tennessee highway Tuesday morning.

Whetstone was driving his wife, Josie, along with their young daughter and son home from a Christmas visit with her family in Gallatin, Tenn., when they saw the crash about 11 a.m. on Interstate 24 near Manchester. The Whetstones were first on the scene but were quickly joined by several other motorists including a doctor, they said.

The flying pickup barely missed their car, Josie Whetstone said.

"If it had flown 2 feet to the left, it would have smashed right into our car," she said. "It happened so quick. John didn't hesitate. He slammed on the brakes, stopped and was out of the car and scrambling down the rocks to get the man."

William Womack of McMinnville, Tenn., was ejected as his truck slid then overturned on the plunge down the ravine. A retired police officer, Womack was sprawled on rocks a couple of feet from a creek filled with rushing water.

"I saw him lying there on the rocks, all by himself," said Whetstone, a lab supervisor at Flagler Hospital. "I had to do something. I never paused. I didn't think about it, I just started running down to get to him."

Slipping and sliding as he scrambled down the wet muddy rocks on the embankment, Whetstone, 28, fell and lost one of his flip-flops as he rushed to Womack's side. Whetstone, who knows first aid and has other basic medical training, quickly assessed Womack's injuries.

"He was awake and breathing and could answer questions," said Whetstone who had his wife throw him down their 2 1/2-year-old daughter's pink blanket, which he used along with his coat to cover Womack.

Another motorist gave them a sleeping bag to help keep Womack from going into shock while they waited for rescue crews to arrive.

As he tended to the injured man, Whetstone saw a child's car-seat in the creek amid clothing and other gear strewn from the truck. …

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