On their last day of summer break in August 2013, brothers Conner and Caleb Richey were at home in Enterprise, Alabama, when a huge crash reverberated through the two-story house.
Caleb, 19, who was playing video games downstairs, was certain that there had been a car accident on Highway 167, about 400 yards from the house. He ran upstairs and burst into Conner’s room. “We have to get outside!” Caleb told his brother.
The two boys sprinted barefoot across the front yard and down a small wooded hill. When they emerged from the trees, they saw three vehicles (a red pickup truck, a black sedan, and a black tow truck) all of which had been struck. A man who looked shocked but uninjured sat on the bumper of the tow truck, which had veered off the road and into a ditch.
Conner and Caleb got to the sedan first. Smoke wafted from its mangled front end, and the driver was pinned in place by the collapsed dashboard and steering wheel. Blood covered his face, and his left arm was badly broken.
[pullquote]”I don’t know if he’s going to live, but I have to do something,” Conner remembers thinking.[/pullquote]
“I don’t know if he’s going to live, but I have to do something,” Conner, then 21, remembers thinking. He took off his T-shirt and pressed it against the man’s bloody head. Caleb sprinted back home to grab a first-aid kit. He returned, gave the kit to his brother, and then borrowed an onlooker’s cell phone to dial 911. Later, when emergency personnel arrived, they cut off the roof of the sedan, pulled out the trapped driver, and loaded him onto a helicopter bound for a nearby trauma hospital. “You probably saved his life,” paramedics told Conner.
Meanwhile, Caleb rushed over to the pickup truck. When he peered through the windshield, he was surprised to see his father, Tim, inside.
“It’s Dad!” Caleb called anxiously to Conner. “This driver is Dad!”
Conner ran to Caleb’s side, and the boys tried to comfort their father. “Stay with us, Dad; paramedics are here,” the boys repeated. As firefighters used the Jaws of Life to cut Tim, 52, out of the pickup, Conner called their mother, Denine, who was at work at the county registrar’s office. She arrived in time to ride in the ambulance with Tim. Conner drove Caleb and their sister Caroline, then 15, to Medical Center Enterprise, where doctors treated Tim for bone fractures to his vertebrae and knee, severely bruised ribs, and a right elbow contusion.
Tim recounted the crash to his family from his hospital bed. He had been waiting in a line of traffic to turn left into his driveway when he saw a tow truck quickly approaching in his rearview mirror. Seconds later, the wrecker, whose driver was later discovered to have been texting, slammed into the rear end of Tim’s truck, sending it spinning into oncoming traffic. Tim then crashed head-on into a black sedan. As the truck flipped, “it was just sky, ground, sky, ground,” Tim says.
After the accident, he wore a back brace for eight weeks and a leg brace for ten and completed two months of physical therapy. The boys received an award from the Enterprise Chamber of Commerce in September 2014.
“I’m very proud of how my sons responded,” says Tim. “But I’m not surprised.”
The boys say their father taught them to lend a hand. “Dad raised us to always help people in need,” says Caleb. “This time that rule of thumb helped him too.”