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Crash survivor thanks firefighters

Kendall, N.Y. -- Both drivers involved in a head-on crash on West Ridge Road in Clarkson on Friday are alive and many who saw that scene admit that is a surprise.

Wayne Howard, 76, a self-employed truck driver was on his way to a job early Friday morning when Monroe County Sheriffs Deputies say that he was struck head-on by a sedan. Sierra Mendes, 19 of Holley, was driving that sedan and was ticketed for unsafe passing because deputies say she was trying to pass a box truck in the oncoming lane when the collision occurred. The crash happened around 7:45 a.m. Friday on West Ridge Road in Clarkson.

Mendes remains in guarded condition at Strong Hospital. Howard was released early Saturday morning.

Howards truck went airborne and landed in the front lawn of an off-duty City of Rochester firefighter identified by neighbors as Scott George. Howard was thrown from the vehicle and witnesses told 13WHAM News that George was initially searching for him.

"I must've flipped right through the air man, Howard told 13WHAM News on Monday. "The cab protector dug up dirt and threw it on top of me like carving sod out; I guess at first they didn't even see me.

Howard said he does not remember anything about the crash and he was unconscious for a long period of time. He was told by others he might not have been breathing when George first found him.

"I am praying that God will bless him in many ways, many ways, said Howard of the firefighter who helped keep him alive.

The crash also happened in front of the homes of two more firefighters who were among the first on the scene. Jose Medina, 18, is one of the newest volunteers with the Brockport Fire Department. He ran to the scene from his job at Kirbys Farm Market a few hundred feet away.

Gordon Bemis, a 47-year veteran of the Brockport Fire Department, was sitting down to breakfast when he heard the crash. Bemis ran outside to help Mendes and stayed by her side for nearly an hour while other firefighters cut her free from the vehicle she was trapped in.

"If it wasn't for them firemen out there I may not be here, said Howard before chuckling with a humble sense of humor. Because they were the ones who took the first initiative, they were the ones on the scene, right away too. I bet that's the best response they ever had!

While at the hospital on Friday Howard said that Mendes sent word through the hospital staff to see how he was doing. Over the weekend a connection was made because one of Howards granddaughters went to school with Mendes sister. That sister paid Howard a visit at his Kendall home and brought him flowers and a card from her family.

"That was amazing that they're concerned about me and I think that she was in worse shape than I am, said Howard. "Oh yeah, I pray for her. I mean we all mistakes in our lives and this was a tragic one you know what I mean.

I didn't want to crash anywhere in front of anybody, chuckled Howard. But that was lucky for me that there was people with emergency skills (nearby.)

Sean Carroll, 13WHAM-TV
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