LAKE OZARK, Mo. — When Bill and Shirley Graham's car ran off the road, down a steep hill, and into a tree on Aug. 31, emergency responders joined together to rescue him.
Neighbors Rodney and Joy Fitzpatrick were eyewitnesses of the accident at 5:58 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, on Twin Oaks Road, in Lake Ozark.
“We were going to dinner with the Grahams,” Joy said. “We were waiting at the top of the hill for them to pull out and their daughter, Mindy Jackson, ran up to us in a panic and said, 'Call 911! Dad has gone off the road!'”
Joy called 911, and two Lake Ozark Police Officers, Priscilla Harris and Dylan Green, were the first to arrive.
According Lake Ozark Fire Protection District Lt. Dustin Hancock, fire personnel arrived on the scene at 6:04 p.m. to find the car up against a tree, on a hill.
Lake Ozark Ambulance and Miller County Sheriff Deputies also arrived quickly on the scene. According to Joy, more than a dozen EMS vehicles responded. “We kind of joked and said, 'We hope nothing else happens in town!'” Joy said.
The road was narrow, so Rodney Fitzpatrick began to transport EMS personnel by golf cart to the scene of the accident.
In the car, down a steep, 40-ft. embankment, were Bill Graham and his wife Shirley. The vehicle air bags had deployed. Lt. Hancock said they were able to bring Shirley up the hill on an extrication device. But as EMS responders approached the car, Bill Graham refused to get on a stretcher.
“Then they all jumped in to rescue Bill by pulling him up the hill, working together in unity to keep him steady,” Joy said. “It was amazing!”
Two ambulance EMTs each held one of Bill’s arms, gently helping him climb the hill, ensuring he did not slip on the steep and rocky crag. A row of four EMTs and law officers held and supported them from behind, four in a row, three rows back.
“It was very moving how they supported the back of the officer in front of them,” Joy said. “I was mesmerized by how well they worked together.”
The Grahams were transported to Lake Regional Hospital by ambulance with only minor injuries. “They came out with bruises. They are sore, but grateful, for that sturdy black oak tree,” Joy said. That tree had stopped the car from descending further down the hill, into the Lake of the Ozarks.
“While turning his vehicle around in the driveway, my dad’s foot got stuck and instead of hitting the brake, he hit the accelerator,” Mindy explained. The car jumped over railroad ties on the edge of the road and was propelled down the steep hill, hitting a tree head-on.
In response to the initial call, LOFPD deployed a second medical unit by fire boat, because many times it is easier to extricate patients off a steep hill by water. Fire personnel left the scene at 6:32 p.m.
“What a wonderful small town we live in,” Joy enthused. “I want to thank the ambulance personnel, the Lake Ozark Firefighters, the Lake Ozark Police and the Miller County Sheriff’s Deputies. 'Thank you' seems so inadequate, but that is all I know to say.”