Rick Wetzel, a Sugarcreek Township volunteer firefighter received a standing ovation after he was awarded with a Life Saving Award during the township meeting on July 21. This award is the first life saving award ever presented for such a heroic act.
“So often you see people just driving by these sorts of things,” said Sugarcreek Township trustee, Michael Pittman. “It’s very commendable that someone would stop and put their own life in danger.”
On June 9, Wetzel was on his way home from teaching a summer class. He was traveling St. Rt. 75 in Butler County when he witnessed a semi –truck crash along the road. The semi-truck driver had lost control and went through the median hitting the median barrier. At the time of impact, the cab burst into flames. Wetzel quickly pulled his vehicle off the road and sprung into action.
“Rick demonstrated a great initiative and depth of personal character on that day,” Deputy Jeffrey Leming from the State Fire Marshall’s office said. “If it were not for the actions of Wetzel, the result of this crash would have had a much different result. His actions were a demonstration of bravery and went beyond what would be expected. Wetzel is a credit to his family, community and the State of Ohio.”
Seeing the door on the passenger side open a little, he could see someone was inside trying to get out. The semi-truck driver, Scott Howard was trapped inside the cab, which was quickly filling up with smoke. Wetzel used his life-saving skills he learned during his years with the fire department to help Howard escape the smoke-filled and burning cab. Due to the Howard semi-truck loss of control, his cab also hit another vehicle. Once Howard was safe, Wetzel ran to the other vehicle to ensure that those passengers were also safe.
“I always wondered if I would have the courage to stop and help someone. I would hope that I would, but until you are put in that position, you really don’t know, I guess.” Sugarcreek Township trustee, Scott Bryant said. “But, you were put into that position and you responded perfectly.”
Wetzel was surrounded by his peers at the fire department and Chief Pavlak, the trustees, family and friends showing their pride and gratefulness. “In recognition of your performance, act of bravery, the Sugarcreek Township Fire Department hereby recognizes your heroism for a job well done. We would like to present you with a life saving award –this is the first for Sugarcreek Township,” Chief Pavlak said. “You risked your own safety and earned the respect of not only the Howard family but the aberration of the entire community.”
With every hero deserving of high praise, Wetzel credited his bravery to the skills and training learned by not only the fire department but also to each and every volunteer and member of the fire department.
“I just happened to be at the right place at the right time – that’s all it was. Everyone here that is standing in front of you today would have done the same thing in the same situation. I just happened to be there at the right time. I didn’t do anything unusual and I really believe that,” Rick Wetzel said. “Scott Howard got to go home to his family. The driver on the other car was injured because of the debris from the semi, but he got to go home to his family- that’s what it’s all about and that’s what these people do on a daily basis – they get people home to their families.”