Risking their lives to save strangers
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer
Monday, 12 November 2012 10:17
GRAND RAPIDS — Volker Kock, a physician’s assistant in the Canadian military, was the second person to arrive on scene of the tragic wrong-way crash on Interstate 75 that killed three Bowling Green State University sorority sisters on March 2.
|Volker Kock (from left), stands with Kayla Somoles, Angelica Mormile & Trooper Phil Mohre during the Black Swamp Humanitarian Awards. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
It was only Kock and State Highway Patrol Trooper Phil Mohre on scene of the fiery accident before other emergency crews arrived. The two tried to free the survivors and extinguish their car.
On Friday, Kock, was honored for his bravery and was presented with a Life Risk Award during the 24th annual Black Swamp Humanitarian Awards at Nazareth Hall in Grand Rapids.
At the banquet, Kock and Mohre stood with their arms around the two surviving sorority sisters, Kayla Somoles and Angelica Mormile, who held hands tightly and fought back tears as the tragic story was told again.
“These are two firecrackers that you need to pay attention to,” Kock said. “They are going to make a difference to America.”
Kock said he admired Trooper Mohre for his bravery that March morning.
“I don’t know if I would have had the intestinal fortitude to drive into the oncoming car,” Kock said.
Seeing the horrific crash happen before his eyes, Kock said he couldn’t leave Mohre at the scene by himself.
“I pulled over and grabbed my medical bag and ran across the road to give Trooper Mohre a hand,” he said.
“The biggest thing going through my mind was, ‘We have got to get in there and get them out. And second, we have to get the fire put out,’” Kock said.
The two attempted to get the girls out by breaking a window, but the Jaws of Life had to be used.
There were five BGSU students in the car, all members of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority. They were headed to a spring break trip. The driver, Christina Goyett, 21, a sophomore, had no time to react to the vehicle going the wrong way in the northbound lanes.
Goyett and Sarah Hammond, 21, a junior, were pronounced dead at the scene. Rebekah Blakkolb, 20, a junior, was taken to a Toledo hospital where she later died as a result of her injuries. The driver of the wrong-way vehicle was also pronounced dead at the scene.
Others were also recognized for risking their lives for others.
Matt Sterling calls Brad Ray and his two teenage children his “three guardian angels.”
He credits the Sterling family, of Fostoria, for saving his life after putting their own lives on the line to rescue him from a fiery two-car crash on March 28 at Ohio 199 and Ohio 281.
Sterling had been blind-sided by a vehicle whose driver pulled out in front of him. Sterling collided with the vehicle, struck a telephone and rolled two times.
The Ray family came upon the crash and rushed to aid Sterling. They attempted to get him out of the driver’s side of the burning truck, but couldn’t so they attempted to gain entry on the passenger side.
“I kind of just started crazily ripping at the door,” Ray said. “Then I wedged myself in between the door.”
From there, Ray’s daughter, Gabriel, 18, and son, Austyn, 15, pulled Sterling from the wreck and to safety.
No sooner had they pulled him to safety, “The truck’s entire cab was engulfed in flames,” Ray said.
“Perhaps 90 seconds more I would have burned up in the vehicle,” Sterling said. “They saved my life.”
Sterling said he remembered hearing shouts there was a fire and recalled knowing he was severely injured. But he had no idea until after the accident it was two children and their father who brought him to safety.
The emotional bond formed between the Sterling and Ray families as a result of the accident was apparent Friday.
“It just amazes me how fast life can change and I think we all need to be reminded of that,” Sterling said.
“These three guardian angels were running behind that night and thank God for that. I’ve thanked you a thousands times and I’ll thank you once more,” he said.
Ray said he and his family never thought twice about helping Sterling from the burning vehicle.
“We didn’t know what was going on, we just hoped we didn’t come up on something horrific,” Ray said.
And although it was against his orders, Ray credited his children for their bravery.
“I have always taught my kids to look out for other people so they look out for you,” Ray said.
Ray and his children were all presented with Life Risk awards by the Black Swamp Humanitarian Awards Committee.
Last Updated on Monday, 12 November 2012 12:41