PORTLAND, Ore. -- A member of the U.S. Navy and a Washington County Corporal ran toward a flaming Jeep and pulled an unconscious man to safety, saving his life with just seconds to spare.
In the chaos, authorities didn't get the Naval Officer's name. They only knew he was a man in his 20s. They found him Monday and called to say, 'Thank you.'
Corporal Cheryl Crecelius was off-duty when she saw a jeep crash and catch fire just east of Gaston Saturday night. She pulled one passenger from the Jeep on her own but the driver’s feet were stuck. She needed someone else to help, and that’s where Petty Officer Nickolas Kingston came in.
“(The Jeep) was fully engulfed seconds after we got him out,” Kingston said.
Kingston is stationed in Oak Harbor, Wash. but is a Forest Grove native who was visiting with his girlfriend for his stepdad’s 60th birthday party. They were dropping off his niece in the area when he saw the flames.
“It definitely was unexpected. It's not the way I was expecting the evening to go,” he said.
His training kicked in from both the Navy and the months he spent as a volunteer firefighter in Forest Grove. He ran toward the Jeep and heard Corporal Crecelius yelling for help.
“I climbed inside the vehicle, and grabbed the victim's waist and gave him a good tug trying to get his legs free,” Kingston described. “There wasn't really a lot going through my mind other than getting the victim out of danger.”
“He stepped right up when we needed him to,” said Corporal Crecelius. “If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have gotten the driver out. There's just no way.”
“I couldn't have done it without her,” said Petty Officer Kingston. “She just did a fantastic job.”
When asked what he thought about being called a hero, Kingston said, “Firefighters and police officers save lives every day without getting the recognition I think they deserve.”
Both men rescued were treated and released from the hospital. Another passenger, who got out on his own, is listed in serious condition at OHSU.
The driver of the Jeep, Mark Vanvleck, was cited for DUII, Reckless Driving and Assault.