A few weeks ago, we told you about a fiery five-vehicle crash that left a white C5 Corvette convertible upside-down on the side of I-40 in Haywood County, North Carolina.
Now we’re happy to share “the rest of the story” about that July 18 accident with you today, as reported by themountainer.com.
An off-duty Maggie Valley, North Carolina police officer named Shanna Bellows became one of many unexpected heroes that day, and in recognition of her life-saving efforts, she’ll be honored at her town’s board of aldermen meeting on Tuesday.
Like most heroes, though, Bellows doesn’t feel that she did anything out of the ordinary. “It’s kind of embarrassing,” she said earlier this week. “I just don’t see it needing a reward. It’s just something people should do. … It’s awkward to talk about because I feel like I didn’t do anything except what anybody should have done.”
Headed that day to West Virginia to visit her sister, Bellows saw a tractor-trailer swerve in front of her after hitting a Corvette, then veering into the median, careening over the concrete dividing wall, and crashing into three other vehicles headed in the opposite direction. The truck and one of the vehicles it hit then erupted in flames.
Bellows quickly pulled off the highway and ran to the Corvette, getting an affirmative response from the driver that he was OK but that there was another passenger in the car. Bellows’ heart sank because the passenger side of the Corvette appeared crushed, but her spirits were buoyed when she heard a woman say, “Help me.”
Bellows and a firefighter also traveling behind the wreck pulled the driver out of the Corvette, then turned their attention to his wife.
“We were really close to the 18-wheeler,” Bellows said. “It was probably five seconds after the wreck that it blew up. We could feel the heat on our backs. It was so hot that we had to step away from the vehicle for a few seconds, then return.”
A third person cut the woman’s seatbelt, while Bellows helped hold her up to keep her from falling from an upside-down position. They all moved away from the heat of the flames from the burning truck, and Bellows assessed the woman’s condition, noticing a severe head injury and talking to the woman continually, trying to keep her mangled hand out of her view to keep from upsetting her any further.
“She stayed pretty much awake, but you could tell she was in so much shock that she didn’t know what was going on,” Bellows said.
While she was helping the Corvette passengers, Bellows feared for the lives of the people on the other side of the interstate, but fortunately, they had all been able to exit their vehicles quickly and escape the blaze. Miraculously, no one wound up being killed in the crash.
“What bothered me the most was, I thought there were people in the cars that were on fire,” Bellows said. “But I also knew I couldn’t do anything about that, so we focused on the people we could help.”
Ironically, Bellows ended up with so much blood on herself from the woman’s injuries that paramedics at first mistakenly thought she had been hurt herself.
A helicopter flew the Corvette passenger to Memorial Mission Hospital, and Bellows heard later that she was in critical condition but expected to survive.
CorvetteBlogger joins in Maggie Valley’s salute to Bellows, and we appreciate the efforts of all the many other medical responders who answered the call that day, including multiple fire departments led by North Canton, highway patrol, Emergency Medical Services, and Department of Transportation crews who worked all night to repair and repaved the burned section of the westbound lanes.
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