PLANT CITY, Fla.– When a 9-year-old boy fell under the wheels of a float Friday night in the Plant City Christmas Parade, onlookers rushed to help him.

Johnny Knotts, who had been watching the parade from the west side of South Collins Street, was among the first to kneel beside the injured child. His Knotts hardware store stands across the street, just south of Laura Street.

The float in front of me suddenly stopped, Knotts said. People on the east side of the street were screaming. It was obvious that something horrible had happened. I ran to the other side of the float and saw the boy lying under the trailer.

Jordan Hayes, who was walking alongside the Greater Heights Christian Center float, had fallen under the wheels of the trailer.

Knotts, 47, said he and several others carefully removed the boy from under the float and tried to determine what could be done. The boy was bleeding heavily.

Someone gave us a towel and we wiped the blood off his face, Knotts said. Within seconds, the blood was back. It seemed to come from everywhere.

As paramedics with Plant City Fire Rescue edged through the line of floats and thousands of spectators lining Collins Street, Knotts said he and others did what they could to help the boy. As Knotts held the boy s legs, another person held his head off the pavement, and a third gave chest compressions to aid the boy s heart.

Deep down in my heart, I knew the little boy was gone, Knotts said. It seemed like only two minutes went by but when the police told us to stand back and let the rescue workers take over, I was mentally exhausted. The boy s uncle was with us. I tried to console him. And then I walked away from the whole thing and got physically sick.

Knotts said he didn t sleep all night. He couldn t get the scene out of his mind.

It was such a helpless feeling to be so close and be powerless to change anything, he said. It was really in God s hands then. Just as it is now. I want his parents to know there was a great deal of love surrounding their little boy when he died.

Right now, I am angry about the whole thing, Knotts said as he sat in his office Saturday morning.

None of us had anything to do with what happened. But we will all feel guilty for the rest of our lives, he said.

Reporter George Newman can be reached at (813) 865-4430 or at [email protected]