Instinct took over when Marc Cramer and his son saw a fiery auto crash take place in front of them on Route 101 in New Hampshire. But the Legionnaire believes it was more than instinct that helped the pair save a life.
On Jan. 29, the pair witnessed a Jeep driven by 18-year-old Samuel Lachance veer into the oncoming lane and hit a tractor-trailer, creating a fireball. With either the tractor-trailer on the left or a frozen reservoir on the right, the Cramers had to go through the fireball.
While doing so, their Toyota Sienna hit Lachance’s Jeep, pushing it out of the fire. The Cramers were able to flag down another driver and, with that person’s help, pulled Lachance out of his Jeep to safety. The driver of the tractor-trailer was able to leave his vehicle on his own and suffered only minor injuries.
“The first thing I thought of was, ‘What are my options?” said Cramer, a U.S. Army veteran, Boys State alum and member of Cheney-Armstrong American Legion Post 5 in Peterborough, N.H. “Those options were quickly reduced into going forward. Instinctually, I wanted to get through that fire, because that was certain death. If I hit my brakes I’d be completely out of control. I could go left or go right. So I went straight.
“When we hit the wall of fire … I thought that would be the crossing over moment for us. I cried out, ‘Lord help me.’ The next thing I know we’re on the other side (of the fire).”
The pair exited their vehicle into temperatures in the teens, and Marc immediately checked on his son. Marc then checked to see the situation with Lachance. “We were figuring we didn’t have much time,” Marc said. “I called over a bystander and directed (he and John) to pull (Lachance) out, and I was keeping an eye on the truck, the fire and everything. I led them over to the side of the road where they could set him. My son and I were with (Lachance) for eight to 10 minutes after that until first responders came."
Marc and his son had previously gotten first aid training during a trip to Colorado and were able to use that while assisting Lachance. “We initially set the victim on his back, and blood was gurgling out of his mouth, so we immediately put him on his side,” Marc said. “He had burns all over his body. His hair was fried. We did a preliminary pat down, and there really wasn’t anything as severe as the trauma that we were seeing in his face. We were just trying to keep him immobilized until the first response came.
“We were praying for him the whole time, and we were talking to him. He obviously wasn’t responding, but that’s part of the first aid drill: ‘Hey, do you know who you are? Do you know where you’re at?’”
First responders did arrive and transported Lachance to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was expected to make a full recovery. Cramer has a dashcam installed in his van – a habit he picked up while managing an engineering office for 10 years in Manilla, where having a dashcam is considered standard – that recorded the entire crash.
“By the grace of God, looking back at the footage, we really think our vehicle pushed his vehicle out of the fire and got him out of that immediate threat,” Marc said. “And we were able to respond in a way maybe we wouldn’t have (otherwise). The adrenaline was there, and God was there with us. We have a lot of faith, and we attribute a lot of that to God. We were relatively unharmed. You type ‘fiery crash’ online … at least one person has died in these fiery crashes. This is just a miracle, I really believe, how everything happened. Divine providence is still out there and working for people.”
To watch Marc and John Cramer being interviewed, click here.