5 American Red Cross Heros Honored for Harrington Explosion 

Joy Hollowell

A car rams into a gas pump, causing an explosion.For most of us, instinct says to get outta there.But five people in Harrington did the exact opposite, and because of their actions, they are now 2010 American Red Cross heros.Joy Hollowell has their story.========It’s the sound Raelea Merchant hoped she would never hear while working at the Circle K in Harrington.”All I heard was fire,” says Merchant.A medical delivery truck driven by Gardiner Crabtree had crashed into one of the pumps, literally shearing it off. To make matter worse, Crabtree’s vehicle was full of liquid oxygen tanks.”Out of instinct, I just hit the buttons to shut the pumps down,” says Merchant.She got everybody out of the store, then escaped out the back with Nicholas Graham. “We heard a big bang and looked out the window and see flames shooting out.”Mark Schoppee was next door when he heard the crash. “(Crabtree) was actually up against the main part of the canopy and the pump was laying off to the side,” says Schoppee.Terry Grant had noticed the smoke from the road. The volunteer fire fighter pulled in to see what had happened.”This woman stepped up and said- he’s in there,” says Grant. “And I thought she meant someone had not evacuated the building. And I said, in where? And she said in that truck. And I looked at the truck and there’s black smoke billowing out the driver’s side window. The front of it’s on fire, there’s fire underneath it, and I thought, he’s dead. He’s dead.”A fourth man, Brandon Lovejoy was also on the scene.”I think it was either Nick or Brandon said he moved, he’s alive,” says Grant. “And that kind of gives you a little extra boost to do something.”All four men headed for the burning truck….knowing at any moment it could explode.”I remember getting down beside the vehicle and opening it,” says Schoppee. “And I remember Brandon and Nicha behind me. And the flames was coming over his head and out the cab of the truck.””I remember being handed a fire extinguisher and I just remember pulling the pin and running,” says Merchant. “I kind of sprayed the front to keep the flames down.””I broke his grip free, and he immediately re-gripped the wheel,” says Grant. “I tried to move a foot and it was the same way with the foot.”The men quickly realized it would take all four of them to get Crabtree out.”I yelled, I said grab his arm, grab his belt,” says Crabtree. “And we all grabbed something and we all hauled, and he came out.””He was breathing and he could move just a little bit,” says Schoppee.”Hearing the Life flight coming in,” says Grant, “it’s the sound that you know some body’s hurt, I knew what they were coming for, but you also know that he’s got a chance. And that makes you feel good.”Although seriously burned, Crabtree did survive. Authorities believe he had some sort of medical problem right before the crash. Both Terry Grant and Raelea Merchant were also taken to the hospital for breathing problems. All five heros credit each other for that day, agreeing that just one person could not have saved Gardiner Crabtree, but together they gave a man the chance to live.”Afterwards, it started sinking in,” says Schoppee, “that all of us had done something pretty great.”++++Terry Grant, Mark Schoppee, Ralea Merchant, Nicholas Graham and Brandon Lovejoy were all presented with American Red Cross Real Heros Awards at a breakfast in November.