Joseph Gibson and John Terry are to receive Citizen Hero Awards on Wednesday in recognition of their quick response to a March 5, 2017, car crash. WILL GREENLEE/TCPALM.COM
FORT PIERCE — It was early on March 5, a Sunday, when Joseph Gibson and John Terry were on Gibson’s porch.
“We were out having a cigarette when we heard it,” Gibson said Tuesday. “I thought it was pretty bad once I heard it.”
It was a crash at 3:23 a.m. that left a Dodge overturned and burning, an incident that a St. Lucie County Fire District lieutenant stated was “the worst call I have been on in my 17 years.”
Gibson and Terry, who were at a nearby apartment, went to the crash on South 25th Street near Virginia Avenue and worked to pull out one of the occupants.
The St. Lucie County Fire Board on Wednesday will present Citizen Hero Awards to Gibson, 18, and Terry, 36, recognizing their efforts.
“At the time, I didn’t really stop and think,” Gibson said. “I saw it and saw the dude trying to get out and saw the opportunity to pull him out.”
Killed in the crash was Kingston Laguerre, 19, a student at Fort Pierce Central High School.
The back-seat passenger, Sheppard Powell, was freed. According to a crash report released by Fort Pierce police, Gibson and Terry told police that Powell “was partially ejected and the two of them were able to remove him from the flames.”
“At first he (Terry) was just trying to do it. I walked up and pulled him back because he was having trouble and he had (Powell) in his hands,” Gibson said. “I pulled him back and that’s when (Powell) fell onto him, and then I started pulling both of them back a little bit farther away.”
Powell, 19, was taken by ambulance to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center Heart Institute in Fort Pierce.
In an interview shortly after the crash, Terry said he braved the flames and pulled at Powell. He backed off twice because of the heat.
On the third try, Powell came free. They stumbled backward and fell, with Powell falling on top of Terry.
“It is my nature to try to help people,” Terry said. “My mother is a nurse.”
Gibson said they realized another person was in the vehicle and heard screaming. That, he said, was the front-seat passenger, Julien Simeus.
Gibson said Terry reached in to unfasten the seat belt but couldn’t.
Emergency officials rescued Simeus, 18, and flew him to a burn unit in Miami.
Gibson, who said he attends an alternative school, said he’s friends with Terry and has known him since November.
Terry and Gibson said they visited Powell in the hospital.
“He is very, very thankful” about surviving with only burns to the ears, hands, foot and leg, Terry has said. “He said he had been asleep in the back seat and woke up just before the accident.”
The Fire District reported if Gibson and Terry had not acted, another person might have died.
Gibson said he did not think Terry would be able to get the award in person. He said Terry, who could not be reached Tuesday, is working in Kansas.
Asked about his actions being called heroism, Gibson said, “I would want someone to do the same for me, so I don’t really look at it like that.”