EATON – Friday morning, July 8, around 9 a.m., Mike Worley drove down West Main Street in Eaton, with no thought of being involved in a life-threatening car accident. Nevertheless, life threw a curve ball.
Worley lost control of his vehicle, crashing into a concrete culvert at the end of a driveway which tossed his truck through the air for several yards, according to bystanders.
It was not long before Worley’s vehicle was smoking, and it would not have been long after he would have lost his life in the fire. That is, if it weren’t for the valiant, and selfless endeavors of two local teenagers, a passerby, and a family friend who, without thought for their own safety, rushed to his rescue.
“Me and (Mackenzie) were sitting in my room, and our power just went out. We heard a big noise, a big boom. At first, I thought it was just like one of the air-conditioners falling out of the window from upstairs. That was the first thought in my head,” explained Breyden Boston, one of the two young men who rescued Worley from the burning vehicle.
Brothers Breyden Boston and Preston Orr rushed outside at the behest of their mother, Jennifer Orr, at which time they saw Worley’s truck alongside the road on its side.
“I wasn’t sure if there was anybody even conscious, or alive — let alone conscious — in the car,” said Boston. “I started screaming, asking, ‘are you alive? Are you okay?’ Obviously, he wasn’t okay.”
Worley had been trapped under his deployed airbag, as well as confined by his seatbelt. He requested a knife to use to free himself, which Preston Orr quickly retrieved. Together, the three deflated the airbag and cut Worley free from the seatbelt.
“I could finally see him,” reflected Boston. “At the bottom through the windshield, since he got out of the seatbelt. I couldn’t really see much up top because it was too smoky. I really didn’t even know where to start once we saw him in the car. Because you couldn’t see him. There was fire, it was just – like, ‘where do we go from here?’”
Boston continued, “I started breaking out the bottom of the windshield with anything I could find, really. Once we got the windshield open, my mom came and started helping me pull him out. The fire started to get really hot, so we backed up. I started looking for somebody else to come help, and as we were backing up, Larry came up and started pulling on him, and he got him out with the second tug he pulled on him with.”
Larry Lewis, a passerby who, “usually didn’t go that way to work,” arrived at the exact moment the Orr family was beginning to feel overwhelmed by the precarious situation.
“I rolled up and a saw these guys out there, and from where I was sitting, it just looked like there was something on fire over there. It really didn’t look like a vehicle,” Lewis remarked.
“Everybody was running around, kicking in windows, that kind of stuff,” Lewis said. “Then I realized it was a car. I thought there was nothing in there, but then they opened up a window and I saw an arm, so I was like, ‘there’s somebody in there!’ I ran up there, grabbed him by the arm and tugged on him. He didn’t come out. So, the second time, I put just about everything I had into it and pulled him. As I did, I fell backwards to the ground, and they came to the side of me, patted off fire with their bare hands. So, we pulled him to grass and rolled him over.”
Mackenzie Wert, a friend of the Orr family, swept burning pieces of plastic from Worley’s chest as the others attempted to drag him to safety. Even though he was free from the melting vehicle, Worley himself was still on fire for a few moments after.
Everyone involved said the six minutes the entire ordeal took place in “felt like forever.” Each remarked only a minute after pulling Worley from the vehicle the fire became unbearably hot, and would have surely been too intense to attempt a rescue.
“I think the adrenaline was a big thing,” Boston said. “I wasn’t feeling anything, honestly. The only thing I can remember, heat-wise, was how hot (Worley’s) arms were.”
Wert noted, with the adrenaline and intensity of the moment, Boston failed to notice the lacerations on his hands and feet from breaking the windshield out of Worley’s truck.
All members involved in the courageous rescue expressed they had never given thought to the heroism they displayed, nor had they given thought to the countywide celebration they have been met with in the aftermath.
They simply did what they felt anyone should do.
Jennifer Orr reflected on the experience, “I can say it was the scariest moment of my life as a mom, but I’m so proud of my sons for doing what they did. Breyden looked in my eyes and said, ‘I got to keep trying, mom.’ And that’s what he did.
“As parents, sometimes you struggle with whether you are making the right decisions. Are we raising them the best we can? That day reassured me that my husband and I raised them to be great humans. That survival doesn’t always come easy, and hard decisions have to be made.
“I hope and pray if any of my kids were ever in a similar situation to Mike, that somebody else’s sons, father, brother, would do the same for them,” she said. “It’s a day I replay over in my head, over and over every day. I’m grateful for how it all turned out and a miracle instead of a tragedy happened that day. I think that’s what I’m so grateful for.”
“I feel like a lot more people should know that they should help in those situations, rather than sit there and record,” Wert said. “ A lot more people should do something, come help, or at least call 9-1-1, instead of recording.”
Boston, too, expressed his feelings on the matter. “Any chance, anytime somebody needs help, I’m going to do the most that I can,” he said. “I don’t know how you can just drive by. I’m going to keep thinking about it, just thinking about if they are okay, what if they are not okay? Could I have done something?”
Both Eaton City Council and the Preble County Board of Commissioners issued proclamations in recognition of the heroism displayed by these individuals. Mayor Joe Renner of Eaton, City of Eaton Fire Chief Brain Smith, and Sheriff Mike Simpson expressed their belief these individuals are the reason Mike Worley survived the event and is still alive today.
Worley has since recovered from the accident, and is gradually improving. Boston will attend Mount Saint Joseph University of Cincinnati, where he will play for the college’s football team, the Lions, this fall. Preston Orr is a student at Eaton High School, and will be playing football with Eagles.