Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

UC Athletes Honored for Bravery

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

UC Athletes Honored for Bravery

Article excerpt

As Conor Branson, Jordan Lavender and Elle Martin worked feverishly to help free a truck driver's leg from under a pile of telephone poles, the trio of University of Charleston student- athletes could hear the engine of the wrecked semi pop as it lay on a two-lane road in northern Ohio. They knew the engine could blow at any time on that August day. Yet every time they stepped away from the flames, they dove back in to try and save a man's life.

Branson and Lavender, both members of the UC men's soccer team, and Martin, a member of the women's rowing team, were just breaking up a road trip to shop at an outlet mall. The driver, Garrick Lewis, considers it the best decision the three ever made.

The trio were honored at UC on Thursday afternoon by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Sgt. Kent Jeffries, the officer on duty that day, said their work saved Lewis' life.

"It's one thing to be in danger, Jeffries said. "It's another thing to know you're in danger and go back into the danger in order to save a man's life. I think that's just heroic.

The three had been visiting friends in northern Michigan and were heading back to UC on Aug. 9, when they decided to take a detour to the outlet mall in Jeffersonville, Ohio. Lewis was driving toward them, hauling new telephone poles, when his truck toppled over. Lewis was thrown 30 feet in front of the crash and his foot got stuck in a pile of poles, his hip broken in four places.

After their car stopped, the three jumped out and ran toward the crash. They found Lewis stuck and the truck's engine aflame. The idea of staying clear of the fire never crossed their minds.

"You don't really think about it at the time, Branson said. "People say now, Yeah, I might have thought about it,' but at the time, you're just running over trying to help any way you can.

Every couple of minutes, the truck's engine would spurt out a warning that it could explode.

"You could hear the gas popping, Lavender said. "We knew it was going to blow, so it was kind of a case of let's get him out of there as quick as we can.

Three other motorists stopped to help. One helped loosen Lewis' boot and pull his foot free. …

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