Independence honors man for saving a life

Pulled Rockford woman from burning car 

West Hennepin Public Safety presented James Buck, 50, of Independence, with a Life Saving Award, Tuesday, Nov. 12, for his quick action in pulling a Rockford woman from a burning car after a Sept. 25 crash. Pictured are (left to right) WHPS Director Ray McCoy (who presented the award), Buck, WHPS Sgt. Gary Kroells and Assistant Loretto Fire Chief Tim Ryan. (Sun staff photo by Susan Van Cleaf)

West Hennepin Public Safety presented James Buck, 50, of Independence, with a Life Saving Award, Tuesday, Nov. 12, for his quick action in pulling a Rockford woman from a burning car after a Sept. 25 crash. Pictured are (left to right) WHPS Director Ray McCoy (who presented the award), Buck, WHPS Sgt. Gary Kroells and Assistant Loretto Fire Chief Tim Ryan. (Sun staff photo by Susan Van Cleaf)

“We were driving along County Road 11 and knew something wasn’t right,” Independence resident James Buck said. “Smoke was there.”

With him in his car were two of his children and two of their friends.

“I pulled over, got all the kids out of the car and up the hill there and I ran across the street to find this pretty ugly scene,” he continued.

As he ran across the street, he called 911.

Buck described some of the events of Wednesday, Sept. 25, after receiving a Life Saving Award from West Hennepin Public Safety. WHPS made the presentation before the Independence City Council, Tuesday, Nov. 12.

WHPS Director Ray McCoy told the audience about how Buck’s quick actions saved the life of Brittany Meihofer, 24, of Rockford, who is the mother of two children.

“He just reacted,” McCoy said. “If he hadn’t just reacted to a very critical situation, we would have had a fatality.”

West Hennepin received the call about a personal injury accident on County Road 11 near Independence Road shortly after 8 p.m., about an hour after sunset. WHPS, the Loretto Fire Department and the Maple Plain Fire Department responded to the scene.

McCoy continued, “When he (Buck) looked at the vehicle, he saw it had struck a tree and it was beginning to smoke. Then he saw flames coming from the vehicle. He rushed down to the vehicle and removed a female from the drivers seat who had severe facial injuries, broken leg, lacerated liver and a brain injury that resulted from the crash. Seconds after pulling the barely conscious, critically injured woman driver from the smoking van, it erupted into flames. Sgt. Gary Kroells (of WHPS) and Loretto Fire Chief Jeff Leuer said removing the woman from the van saved her life.”

Police cleared cars from the parking lot at Village Free Church to open up a landing place for the helicopter ambulance. Meihofer was transported to a hospital in very critical condition, McCoy said.

After he received his Life Saving Award, Buck said, “This car incident, I’ve had a number of people call me a hero. The heroes are veterans in uniform. I did what I hope and pray anyone would have done. We citizens, I think we owe it to others to do good and I just feel blessed that it was me that happened to come upon that accident and I had the opportunity to give back to society. We’re lucky to be Americans. … I was lucky to be there that night. I really appreciate being recognized.”

He added, “That night, the discipline by those who showed up in uniform, I was very impressed and really humbled by how effective they were in immediately buttoning down the situation. So we’re in good hands.”

Buck said emergency responders were on the scene in five minutes.

“They were there immediately on the ball,” he said.

He said he was glad to have contributed to a couple of lives. The driver of the car is the mother of two children, and he couldn’t imagine what their lives would have been like without her, he said.

Buck also was recognized Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Minnesota Public Safety Award Dinner sponsored by North Memorial Medical Health Care. This was an evening during which a number of people were recognized for performing life saving deeds.

Contact Susan Van Cleaf at susan.vancleaf@ecm-inc.com

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