Macon-Bibb firemen honored for saving Sgt. Eric John | News
Almost a year ago, a driver struck a Macon firefighter standing in the emergency lane of I-75.
The impact threw Sgt. Eric John across four lanes of traffic, and landed him in the hospital for the next six months.
He's still living in a rehab facility today, but recovering.
John says his survival would not have possible without his three crew mates.
At Station 104 in South Bibb County, normal routines returned.
Lt. Akwasi Maru, Brian Sauls, and Ben Bolinger coped with the trauma of July 11, 2013, but never forgot it.
Maru said, "I had sleepless nights for two weeks. I couldn't drive down the interstate for probably a month."
Again and again, their minds replayed the seconds it took for a an 18-year-old driver to veer into the emergency lane and strike John. He was talking to a deputy, and just about to leave the scene of an earlier accident.
Maru said, "It's like he turned around at the last minute, braced himself. The vehicle struck him, and threw him three or four lanes across the other side of the interstate. He was actually higher than the fire truck, when he flew in the air."
Sauls said, "My initial reaction, and I hate to say this, but I thought he was deceased."
At first, panic set-in. Then, their training took over. CPR started within a minute of impact.
Eric John said, "They automatically went into action, which is actually what saved my life."
John remembers nothing of the accident, or the three months following. In September, he awoke from a coma to hear the story.
He sad, "I didn't take it well at first. The first thing that hit me was a firefighter's instinct."
John fought the urge to get up, but his legs were shattered and his brain injured. He learned his heart stopped three times on the way to the hospital.
John said, "I remember somebody telling me it would take a year to recuperate. I flatly told them, 'It won't take me a year. I'm a fireman. It won't take me a year.' It has taken me a year."
Longer, in fact. He will still be in therapy, when the one-year anniversary of the accident passes. He still has more surgeries to come.
He said, "It seems like forever." At least for the physical healing. Emotionally, the wounds closed much faster.
John says the man that hit him offered a heartfelt apology. He said he told him, "I forgive you. It was an accident."
To his crew mates, John says he lives in constant thanks. But they say that and the accolades for their actions that day are not necessary. They say they did their job, and their friend survived.
Brian Sauls, "I think that's the ultimate award for us. Him being alive today."
The crew from Station 104 will be honored next Wednesday at the American Red Cross Hometown Heroes Awards Banquet.
It's at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins.
Eric John says he is determined to return to the fire department one day, although he's not sure in what capacity.
The man that hit him pleaded guilty to violating Georgia's Move Over Law. He was sentenced to one year of probation.