Motorists stop to help man in Interstate 70 accident

Sunday, July 12, 2009 | 6:42 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Motorists stopped to help a man having a seizure before emergency vehicles arrived at the scene of an accident on eastbound Interstate 70 near exit 126 Saturday afternoon.

The driver, whose name has not been released, had a seizure while driving, said Eric Hartman, Columbia Fire Department captain. He said the driver was not injured in the accident, but was transported to University Hospital because of the seizure.

Although other drivers passed the vehicle moments before the accident, Jabier Benavides chose to follow it.

"I was about to pass him, too, but I noticed something was wrong," Benavides said.

He said the vehicle continued to slow and veer to the right, "way off the shoulder." The vehicle eventually veered so far it ran into the ramp at exit 126. This crash caused the vehicle to veer back onto the interstate.

A few moments later, Benavides said the vehicle crashed into the median. He decided to stop in the middle of the interstate to help the driver.

"I  knew there was something wrong with him, and I thought I could help him," he said.

Benavides said he parked his truck on the left of the interstate directly to the right of the driver's vehicle so other drivers wouldn't hit him.

When Benavides got to the vehicle he saw that the unresponsive man was shaking badly, so he immediately called 911 while trying to break into the driver's rear side window. While he was on the phone, motorist and Missourian columnist David Rosman also pulled over to help.

Rosman said when he got to the vehicle, Benavides' arm was cut up as a result of trying to break the window. He found a hammer in the back of Benavides'truck and broke the back passenger window. Rosman supported the driver's neck and tried to keep him from moving.

Rosman said about 12 people stopped to help, including a doctor who took the driver's pulse.

"There were a lot of very, very good citizens who stopped to help this guy," Rosman said.

He said the police arrived three to five minutes after he stopped.

Both men said that the driver was wearing his seat belt and airbags were not deployed.

"Luckily, it ended up that nobody got hurt," said Benavides, whose arm did not require medical attention.

Calls made to the Columbia Police Department on Saturday and Sunday were not returned.

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