SALT LAKE CITY -- Firefighters and the driver of a minivan who hit a wheelchair-bound man are praising a group of good Samaritans as heroes. A 68-year-old man was using his motorized wheelchair to cross Redwood Road at 1000 North about 9 a.m. Thursday when he was struck by a minivan.
The wheelchair was knocked on its side and wedged under the front bumper of the vehicle. The man was taken to a local hospital in critical condition.
"Several bystanders had actually lifted up the car, and two young people had pulled this gentleman out from the car," Salt Lake City Fire Capt. Rick Black said. "I think their actions saved the life of this gentleman."
Gloria Woolman, the 63-year-old driver of the minivan, said she didn't see the man when she turned onto Redwood Road. "I feel so bad," Woolman said. "(It's) a very terrible thing to happen. I certainly didn't do that on purpose, and I didn't even know I'd hit anybody."
She also praised the bystanders who jumped into action to help save the man.
"All those people that tilted the car and pulled him out are the heroes of the day," Woolman said, her hands shaking as she sat behind the wheel of the minivan.
Salt Lake City police elected not to cite Woolman, according to detective Dennis McGowan. Trever Fierro watched in horror as the man was hit.
"He was dragged 15 feet, went under the front left tire and ended up in the middle," Fierro said. "It was breathtaking, and I'm still shaking."
"We could tell he was still underneath the car," added Ashley Heuser, another witness. "We knew right away we needed to get him out."
Fierro said the man was conscious, "but bubbles were coming out of his mouth. He tried saying things, but he really couldn't make out any words."
Heuser said six or seven people actually lifted the minivan while she helped pull the man out from underneath. "He needed out," she said. "If there wasn't going to be anyone else, it needed to be me. I don't really want to call us heroes because it's something we should do. It's not an act. It's something we should be doing every day."
Heuser said she took a first responders class in ninth grade and used some of those lessons to help the man once he was pulled out from the vehicle and before paramedics arrived.
"I knew I would use it at some point in my life, but never this severe," she said.