‘I noticed a big fireball’: Ashland man saves a life using his Red Cross training

Gary Thomas received the Red Cross Certificate of Merit.
Ashland man receives American Red Cross lifesaving award
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 9:49 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 23, 2022 at 7:21 PM CDT
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ASHLAND, Ala. (WBRC) - An East Alabama man was awarded for his heroic actions that saved a man’s life during a bad accident in April 2022.

The American Red Cross gave Gary Thomas of Ashland the Red Cross Certificate of Merit. The Certificate of Merit is “the highest award given by the Red Cross to individuals who save or sustain a life using skills learned in a Red Cross Training Services course and is signed by the President of the United States.”

Thomas, who is a truck driver and was on a routine haul, said on April 13, 2022, while driving on Highway 77 toward Ashland, “I noticed a big fireball on the side of the road, and as I was approaching I was thinking to myself who in the world would be burning trash at 4:00 in the morning on the side of the road?”

Red Cross leaders said Thomas used his American Red Cross training in First Aid/CPR/AED to save a man’s life when he saw the fireball was part of a bad motor vehicle accident and one of the vehicles had flipped over.

Thomas said he quickly pulled over to check on the driver and any other passengers that may have been in the vehicle. He discovered the driver was strapped into his seat belt and needed help to escape. Thomas grabbed a fire extinguisher from his truck and called for help from nearby drivers while working to free the victim.

Thomas said the fire eventually burned through the seat belt strap, enabling him to move the man to safety. Thomas said part of the man’s body was burning. “He was engulfed in flames from the waist down, so I tore my shirt off and started beating the flames off of him,” Thomas said.

“I waited for the fire department to get there. I knew I had to get him out of the car. I knew that’s as somebody’s father or somebody’s son or husband.”

When emergency medical personnel arrived on scene, the victim was air flighted to the nearest burn hospital for treatment.

For this heroic and lifesaving action, Gary Thomas, received the Red Cross Certificate of Merit in a ceremony at the American Red Cross office in Birmingham.

American Red Cross Honors Gary Thomas for Saving Life
American Red Cross Honors Gary Thomas for Saving Life(American Red Cross)
American Red Cross Honors Gary Thomas for Saving Life
American Red Cross Honors Gary Thomas for Saving Life(American Red Cross)
American Red Cross Honors Gary Thomas for Saving Life
American Red Cross Honors Gary Thomas for Saving Life(American Red Cross)

“We’re extremely proud to present a Certificate of Merit to Gary Thomas,” said Mark Beddingfield, American Red Cross, Alabama and Mississippi Region’s CEO. “His actions exemplify our mission to help people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies.”

Thomas did suffer minor burns on his arms but he has returned to work. He says he’s grateful for that Red Cross training that taught him to remain calm in emergencies.

A variety of online, blended (online and in-person skills session) and classroom courses are available at the Red Cross website.

If you or someone you know has used skills and knowledge learned in an American Red Cross Training Services course to help save or sustain the life of another individual, visit the Lifesaving Awards website to nominate, recognize, or be inspired.

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