Rising to the Occasion

“Every chance you get to impact someone’s life and do something positive or help others, you should rise to the occasion.” –Jacob Ellis

Westminster College senior Jacob Ellis, a defensive linesman for the Blue Jays, lives by those words and certainly proved it on Sunday afternoon, August 21, when he and another motorist rescued an elderly couple trapped inside a burning car.

After attending church, Jacob was headed to Columbia to visit his family. It had been a difficult week.  He had surgery on his hand Thursday after injuring his ring finger playing football, and was driving with a heavily bandaged hand.

Suddenly, while driving on Route J in Millersburg, he found himself in the midst of a three car collision. An on-coming vehicle had crossed the center line, striking a pickup truck owned by Bob and Pam Maxwell of Fulton, head-on, and then it careened on to strike a second vehicle, a Ford Focus. Unable to stop in time, Jacob’s vehicle, behind the first two cars, pushed the Focus into a nearby ditch.

Jumping out, Jacob ran to the lady who was getting out of the Focus and she told him she was all right.  So, he left her and ran to the driver’s side of the pick-up, which had been smashed in, with Bob Maxwell trapped inside, and the engine bursting into flames.  At the same time, another driver, Adam Brunk, of Holts Summit, approached the accident and also came to the Maxwell’s rescue.

Pam Maxwell, it was determined later, suffered a heart attack immediately following the accident.  Adam and Jacob got her to safety and then went back to get Bob, who had sustained a broken wrist, and whose legs were trapped under the collapsed dashboard.  The first time they tried to grab him, Bob didn’t move.  They were able to pull him free just as the entire hood of the car was consumed in flames.

After getting Bob to safety on the nearby grass, Adam and Jacob were told that Pat’s purse containing needed medicine was still in the truck.  Returning to the car one last time, the men retrieved Pam’s purse and her cane and grabbed the ignition key moments before the entire pick-up burst into flames, and the tires exploded.

Neither Adam nor Jacob were injured in the rescue.

Only after the Missouri Highway Patrol, EMT’s, and fire trucks arrived, did Jacob realize what he had done.  When he had a chance to reflect on the experience, he described it as “surreal…like a movie.”  When asked what prompted him to take such a risk, he said:  “It was just instinct.  God told me these people needed help, and I put my truck in park and did what I could to help them.”

Jacob’s football coach John Welty will tell you it is more than instinct. “That’s the beauty of teaching at a school like Westminster College,” Coach Welty says. “Winning is great, but education is what our kids are here for and they have their priorities straight. We don’t have NFL players.  We do have students and athletes who are going to be leaders in society.  They are going to do big things when they get out of here.”

Jacob already is doing big things, and he said one of the wonderful things to come out of this whole experience is that he has a friendship with Bob and Pam Maxwell that will “last a lifetime.” In fact, the Maxwell’s had planned a weekend move, but did not know how it would happen now that they no longer have a truck. Jacob has their problem under control.  The Westminster Blue Jay football team took care of their move over the weekend.

“I told Bob we could get my teammates to his house to pack boxes and get them loaded and moved,” Jacob said.  “This is an everyday thing people should do.  My teammates embraced what happened.  Them being able to help off the field helps us even greater on the field”

Pam Maxwell refers to Jacob as “my angel.”  No one would disagree.





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