SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- A paramedic is thankful to be alive today after being crushed by a rolling minivan after trying to come to the aid of a motorist in distress.
"To be honest, I thought I was dead," said Denny Greenhalgh, 65, a longtime paramedic who now works part time for Gold Cross. "I was thinking, 'This is not going to turn out good. This is the end.'"
Greenhalgh was transporting an injured child to Primary Children's Medical Center Tuesday afternoon when he was flagged down by people wanting him to help a man slumped over the driver's seat of a parked minivan.
When Greenhalgh opened the door to help, the driver, identified as Jesus Lemus, woke up. "He says, 'I've got to go.' I'm thinking, 'I don't want you to go, dude, you're not all there,'" Greenhalgh said while recuperating in a Salt Lake City hospital bed.
He tried to keep Lemus from driving away by reaching inside and attempting to put the vehicle into park or neutral. But the driver sped off.
"I'm stuck there. My feet are on the ground. I've got my hand on the steering wheel. I'm hanging on to the door frame and he's driving foot-to-the-floor," Greenhalgh said.
Greenhalgh struggled to grab the steering wheel and turned it to keep them from crashing head-on to an approaching vehicle.
"I don't know what we hit, because, the next thing I know, I'm airborne."
He landed on his backside on what he thinks was the sidewalk. Meanwhile, the van he was thrown from began rolling toward him.
"I can remember it got dark for a second and that's when the minivan rolled over on top of me. Suddenly, I'm having a hard time breathing because it crushed my chest. All but two ribs are broken."
Two other medic crews were nearby and helped Greenhalgh, who in addition to the broken ribs also has a shattered vertebrae and a broken sacrum, to go with painful bruises and back spasms. His sons drove in from Southern California to help their father, and offered some well-deserved praise: "If a car rolls over somebody, you immediately think of the worst. Luckily, he's still here. That makes him my superhero," Wesley Greenhalgh said.
Despite the pain, Denny Greenhalgh was in surprisingly high spirits this week.
"In hindsight, I look back at it and think, 'This is pretty cool because a minivan rolled over me, and I'm still here.'"
Now he has the future to wrestle with. He said his injuries may force him to retire from working for Gold Cross. But he said he has a big bucket list, including motorcycling with his sons through Alaska, visiting the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia and perhaps most importantly, spoiling a new grandchild. As for Jesus Lemus, he was taken to the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of DUI and hit and run.