WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 06, 2004
Save of a Lifetime...
Oct. 6, 2004
On April 13, 2003, Ashley Roque, a relief pitcher on the Jacksonville University baseball team, was driving down Florida state road 206 to visit his girlfriend in St. Augustine during the early evening hours. In front of him, a silver Acura, driven by 25-year-old Laura Beth Thompson, swerved to avoid a car that had pulled onto the highway and eventually flew off the road and into a grove of pine trees. Before the car was engulfed in flames, Roque stopped his car, ran to the burning vehicle, and pulled Thompson to safety. Below is Roque's first-hand account of the incident (which ran in The Sporting News on May 3) along with excerpts from an article in the Florida-Times Union after Roque was honored for heroism with the ceremonial first pitch at a Jacksonville Suns home game on April 28, where he was publicly reunited with Thompson.
-- I pulled over, dialed 911 on my cell phone and ran to the car. What I remember most is the intense heat of the flames as they shot out of the cracks in the hood. As I was looking at the car, I realized the 911 dispatcher had already picked up and was trying to get my attention: "Sir, sir, you need to speak to us!" I hadn't even heard the dispatcher's voice.
The girl trapped inside had blood all over her face and chest, and she kept repeating, "I can't get out!" I knew I had to do something quickly because the car could explode at any minute and kill both of us. I tried to open both doors, but they were smashed shut. I reached in through the side window, grabbed her by her armpits and pulled her out. I put her over my shoulder and carried her to the other side of the two-lane road. When I looked back, I saw the car engulfed in flames, with smoke and fire pouring out of the window we had been inside 30 seconds earlier.
First Response showed up about a minute later and stabilized the girl. That's when the magnitude of what had just happened finally started to catch up with me. I still shake a little when I tell the story.
I did the only thing I knew to do - the only thing I'm sure most people would have done. I'm glad I happened to be in the right place at the right time to help out. --
Two weeks after rescuing Thompson from a fiery car, Roque threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Jacksonville Suns' 5-3 loss to the Mobile Baybears.
Thompson, still nursing three broken ribs and a broken clavicle, had her fiancé and family in attendance as she accompanied Roque onto the field for what amounted to another reunion since they crossed paths on the evening of April 13.
"I thank God for him every day when I wake up. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here," Thompson said, trying to hold back tears. "He's like a new part of the family. There is nothing that I can do to show what he did means to me and what he means to me."
Roque, who his entering his final season with the Dolphins, has since been dubbed a national hero despite his apparent discomfort about the title. The story of his rescue has received national recognition, including an article in USA Today, an interview on ESPN Radio Gameday and an invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Florida Marlins game. In addition, Roque was sent a letter of recognition from Florida Governor Jeb Bush, as well as a Mayoral Commendation from Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton.