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January 29, 2012

Good Samaritans use car jacks in Mass. rescue

By Craig S. Semon
Telegram & Gazette Staff

SPENCER, Mass. — Even though he drives the same stretch of road every morning on his way to work, Steven Turner feels that yesterday morning he was on Route 31 for a reason - to help rescue a woman he never met before.

"I was on my way to work on Route 31, heading to Spencer, and I came around the corner and I see a van on its side," said Mr. Turner, a lineman for National Grid who lives in Paxton. "So I pulled over. I approached the van. There was a female victim outside of the van. The van was leaning on her."

The woman, Marcia LeBlanc, 58, of Canal Court, Millbury, was trapped under her overturned Chevrolet TrailBlazer after hitting a utility pole near Saint Joseph's Abbey, flipping the vehicle. She was not wearing a seat belt, said Spencer Police Chief David Darrin, and was thrown through the passenger-side window and trapped when the SUV came to rest on the passenger side, according to state police.

Mr. Turner, along with state Trooper Dylan J. Morris of the Brookfield barracks, jacked up the vehicle and pulled the seriously injured woman to safety. She was rushed by Spencer ambulance to UMass Memorial Medical Center - University Campus in Worcester, where she was in fair condition last night, according to a UMass nursing supervisor.

When Mr. Turner found Ms. LeBlanc, she was unconscious.

"There was another (Donna Ryel of Spencer) that showed up and stopped, and I talked to her and said, `Oh, you might not want to see this,'" Mr. Turner said. "And I went back to her (Ms. LeBlanc). She started responding. At that time, the trooper showed up. I told him (Trooper Morris), `There's a victim under the vehicle. We've got to get her out.'"

Trooper Morris told Mr. Turner to grab some car jacks to lift the toppled Chevrolet TrailBlazer and to get Ms. LeBlanc out from underneath. Mr. Turner said it was eventually "real easy" to lift the SUV and remove her.

Ms. Ryel called emergency responders and began directing traffic while the men worked to free Ms. LeBlanc.

"There was traffic going by, but we weren't paying any attention to them. We were just focusing on what we were doing," Mr. Turner said. "We actually ended up with three jacks on the side of the van, and it went up easily, and we got her out pretty quick."

Mr. Turner said that all he could feel was adrenaline pumping in his veins and unwavering motivation to get Ms. LeBlanc out from under her vehicle. He said he never feared for his own safety on this usually busy stretch of highway.

"I knew she was alive and was under the van. It was leaning on her pretty good," Mr. Turner said. "We got her out. She just asked what happened, and we told her not to worry about it right now and remain calm, and they're on their way to help you."

Trooper Morris had been driving to the Holden Barracks from a paid detail when he came upon the traffic jam on Route 31.

"I was going home. Traffic was backed up on (Route) 31, both sides. I was up the hill," Trooper Morris said. "Kind of like a school bus getting out, but there was no school bus."

Trooper Morris drove up to investigate the reason for the stopped traffic and found a single-car crash in the middle of the road.

"Mr. Turner was trying to assist the driver who was pinned underneath the side of the car," Trooper Morris said. "She was pinned right about her upper abdomen, just below her chest. Her feet were still inside the car."

Although she was conscious, Trooper Morris said Ms. LeBlanc looked as if she was having difficulty breathing.

"It was icy. So we had to keep her kind of straight, in case there were some other injuries, and we slid her straight out," Trooper Morris said. "We left her on the ground until EMS showed up."

Trooper Morris has nothing but praise for Mr. Turner and Ms. Ryel, saying what they did was "fabulous."

"There was a lot of traffic stopped. Nobody else got out of their cars. As soon as the car moved out of the way, people drove by," Trooper Morris said. "It's kind of strange. You see somebody sticking out from under the car and continue on your way to work? We probably had enough people to lift it and clear it off the ground."

When asked why he stopped to help someone he didn't know, Mr. Turner said it was just instinct."Why not stop?" he said.

"If it was me, I wish someone would stop. If people can help, they should help. Conscience. Why drive by? You should help if you can."

As for being called a hero, the easily embarrassed Mr. Turner was quick to shoot down that notion, adding that most people would have done the same thing. In this case though, that was not what happened.

"I told my kids. They were proud. `Nice job, Dad,' " Mr. Turner said. "My wife - she's a nurse. She was like, `You were there for a reason. That was a great job that you did.' I believe I was there for a reason."

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