Most have heard the short version, but what most have not heard is the story of the men who saved a life that night.
Four ULM students and a ULM alum—all members of the ULM Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity—risked their lives to save another.
Jeremy Durand, a senior kinesiology major from Pollock; John Mark Henderson, a junior marketing major from Natchez, Miss.; Andrew Ricks, a freshman kinesiology major from New Iberia; R.T. Gilbert, a sophomore criminal justice major from West Monroe; and Brock Pierce, a 2013 kinesiology graduate, pulled a 32-year-old father out of his burning vehicle, saving his life.
The men were visiting a friend on Bon Aire Drive near Masur Hall on the ULM campus when they heard the crash take place.
“We heard tires squeak and some loud noises and when we got close to the wreck, the back-end caught fire,” said Pierce.
Once it was evident that someone was inside the vehicle, the men took to finding a solution to free the victim.
“The doors were jammed so we started on the front,” said Durand. “We were talking to him and trying to get him to communicate. He was dazed and couldn’t speak. There were small explosions going off so we took the door where the window starts and bent that all the way down.”
With the door removed, Durand realized that the situation was worse than they expected.
“We tried to get him out and we couldn’t get him to budge,” he said. “The steering wheel was pinned down on his legs. We couldn’t move him at all.”
After multiple attempts to remove the victim, Pierce knew they didn’t have much longer to achieve a successful outcome.
He said, “It felt like we had been pulling on him for 15 or 20 minutes, but it was really only a minute or two. Then, the entire car became engulfed, even inside the cab itself, and at that point and time everyone was thinking worst-case scenario—it’s going to blow.”
Pierce and the others stepped back to assess the situation and came to the conclusion that they had only moments left to save the man’s life.
“He came to, and started to fight and try to get out, so we got back in and were able to pull him out,” said Pierce.
Once they pulled the victim to safety, Pierce began efforts to keep him stabilized and alert.
“His words were short and muttered but when he first said his name and I repeated it back to him, I said it incorrectly. He corrected me and that was a good sign.”
A neighbor with nursing experience joined the men in helping the victim while waiting for the ambulance and helicopter to arrive.
When asked about their thoughts during the experience, Pierce and Durand said they only had one goal, and that was to get the victim out of the vehicle.
“We realized the danger, but it never entered our heads to stop. It was intense,” said Pierce.
Tommy Walpole, staff adviser for the ULM chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha said, “I’m proud of them and I know that a lot of people wouldn’t do what they did. It was pretty remarkable.”
Pierce says that he and his brothers were recently contacted by the fiancée of the victim. They plan to meet with her soon.