Woman thanks 3 who pulled her from burning car

April 02, 1995|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

Amy Rebecca King recently met three strangers who changed her life forever. She doesn't remember the actual meeting, but she and her parents are more than glad they weren't shy about stepping forward -- to save her life.

"They definitely went beyond their civic duty," the 19-year-old cosmetology student said last week.

She and her parents, Anthony and Colleen King of Columbia's Owen Brown village, are thankful to Jamie Nordstrom and James and Christopher Palmer, all of Columbia, for pulling Ms. King from her burning, overturned Toyota Tercel about 5:30 p.m. March 21 in Columbia.

Her mother wants the three men to receive some sort of citation from the county fire department, and her father is talking about giving them a Swiss Army pocketknife -- larger than the one Mr. Nordstrom used to cut Ms. King's seat belt to free her.

Pointing to color photographs of her daughter's mangled car, Mrs. King said, "My husband is an accident reconstructionist for the state and said, 'There is no reason why she should be alive.' "

The accident occurred when Ms. King had an epileptic seizure while driving south on Broken Land Parkway near Cradlerock Way, just minutes from her home on Mossy Brink Court.

"The last thing I saw was a traffic light. . . . It was green," she said, unable to recall the accident.

The two Palmers also were traveling south on Broken Land Parkway.

"I looked up straight ahead and I saw Rebecca's car hit the curb and went up on the front end and started to roll in the woods and stuff," Christopher Palmer, 23, said. "All you saw was a bunch of dirt."

When his father stopped his pickup truck to see what happened, "Everybody was just staring," Christopher Palmer said. He got out and approached the overturned Toyota.

Mr. Nordstrom, 30, was already trying to enter the rear of the car to free Ms. King, but he couldn't.

"I asked her to squeeze my hand if she was OK. She did," Christopher Palmer said. "Then she started to cry a little. Then she got silent. I thought she had passed out or something. Then she started convulsing."

Spotting flames coming from the car's engine, James Palmer grabbed the fire extinguisher he carries in his truck to douse the fire, possibly preventing an explosion.

Mr. Nordstrom tried to open the driver's door, but it was blocked by a tree stump. The trio pushed the car to open the door.

"The seat belt was strapped around her throat," Mr. Nordstrom recalled. He used his pocketknife to cut it. The three got her out and covered her with her cosmetology cape.

Ms. King was taken by ambulance to Howard County General Hospital, where she was treated for a bloody right arm and bruises before being released.

Ms. King said a piece of her car's rearview mirror probably punctured her arm.

Howard County police Officer Victor Broccolino, who responded the accident, said Ms. King probably saved her life by wearing her seat belt.

Officer Broccolino, who has been on the force two years, said epilepsy-related traffic accidents are rare. "I've never seen it before," he said.

Ms. King attributed her seizure to a "strobe effect" from sunlight filtering through nearby trees. "It triggered something in my brain that caused me to have a seizure," she said.

Her first seizure came while she was a passenger in her boyfriend's car in December 1993, just two months after she was diagnosed with epilepsy, her mother said.

Ms. King is now waiting for the state Medical Advisory Board to say when she can drive again. Meanwhile family and friends are transporting her. Her medication has been increased.

The state Motor Vehicle Administration reviewed 960 cases involving motorists with epilepsy between July and February, and 66 of those drivers were denied licenses, a spokesman said. The others were permitted to keep their licenses.

Whether she drives again or not, Ms. King said: "Somebody was watching over me, whether it was God or somebody else, somebody was watching over me."

Her rescuers downplay their actions.

"I was in the right place at the right time," Christopher Palmer said. "I'm sure anybody would've done it."

But Mrs. King isn't so sure. And she wants everyone to know that her daughter's rescuers are true heroes.

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