New Castle News

Wilmington

January 7, 2013

Tragedy & heroics: Teen driver in fatal crash may owe life to vigilant off-duty officer

NEW WILMINGTON — A Pulaski Township officer’s vigilance may have saved the driver’s life in a fatal accident Friday night in Wilmington Township.

Shane McQuiston of Garner Road, a 15-year-old sophomore at Wilmington High School, died in the wreck that occurred when a pickup truck in which he was a passenger apparently swerved to avoid a deer and went off the road. The truck landed on its roof in Deer Run, a 3 1/2-foot-deep trout stream off Valley View Road.

The driver, 17-year-old Ethan Seeber of Conestoga Drive, was rescued by a team of police and firefighters and was flown to St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown, where he was listed as stable during the weekend.

Randy Courson, the officer who spotted the wreck, said yesterday that his having been nearby resulted in a quick response, but that rescue efforts were stymied by the truck’s position in the stream.

As Courson ended his shift around 9:30 p.m., he pulled his police car around the back of the municipal building on Route 108, facing Valley View Road. He noticed headlights approaching on Valley View, “a ways off,” he said.

He pulled the cruiser into the garage, then got into his own car and drove around the building and the headlights were gone.

“I thought that was kind of strange,” he said, “and I figured the car already passed and I missed it.”

He took South Valley View Road to go home, and as he turned onto that road just minutes later, he saw the tire tracks and a red Silverado on its roof in the stream below the bridge.

Courson, still in uniform, called on his police radio for medical services.

WEIGHING THE CIRCUMSTANCES

“I couldn’t see anyone standing around and I knew it had just happened and there were people inside,” he said, adding the truck was submerged in 3 1/2 feet of water.

“It landed in the deepest part of the creek.”

Courson could hear the voice of one of the boys inside, who turned out to be Seeber, and “I made contact with him. The water was up to the level of the window and I couldn’t see inside.”

The driver’s door was blocked by the embankment, he said. “I asked the driver if he was OK and he said he was, and he was calling for his friend, telling him to keep his head above the water.”

Courson asked Seeber if he could keep his head above-water and he said he could.

“The passenger door window was completely under water,” Courson said. He managed to open the door about two or three inches against the other embankment but McQuiston was submerged and was upside down in the truck.

 “I could see his thighs but I couldn’t get to him,” he said.  He called for more help from the quickest unit, which was Mahoning Township police, and Sgt. Brian Magliocca arrived within six to eight minutes.

“I kept in contact with the driver,” Courson continued. “He said he was cold and I told him we had help coming.”

When Magliocca arrived, the two officers stood in the nearly waist-deep water pulling on the door and opening it slightly more.

“I know when I got there the (McQuiston) boy was still alive,” Courson said, but together, the two officers couldn’t open the truck door far enough. About five minutes later, Lt. Mike Mrozek of the Union Township police arrived, and the three got the door open enough to reach inside the truck, Courson said.

“We cut the door open and still couldn’t get him out,” he said of McQuiston. “We cut the seat belt. Then the fire department arrived and (Pulaski firefighter) Dave Leasure came over to our side and helped us pull the door completely open.

‘We pulled (McQuiston) from the car, and he was put on a backboard,” and they started resuscitation efforts, Courson said, adding,  “At that point, pretty much everyone was there.”

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