Above, Volusia County Fire Services Paramedic Rich Denby stays with Michael Leissler, 10, before other rescue personnel successfully extracted him from a flipped pickup off State Road 415 in Volusia County on Sunday. At right, Lt. Scott Black holds Michael after he was rescued from the vehicle. Pair saved by passing locals
Good Samaritans pull mother, son from submerged vehicle
Emergency officials credited a group of good Samaritans for saving the lives of a Samsula mother and her young son Sunday after their truck was hit from behind and overturned into a water-filled ditch along State Road 415.
By MELANIE STAWICKI AZAM
Last update: June 13, 2005
SAMSULA -- Emergency officials credited a group of good Samaritans for saving the lives of a Samsula mother and her young son Sunday after their truck was hit from behind and overturned into a water-filled ditch along State Road 415.
"There were literally about 15 Good Samaritans on the scene," said EVAC spokesman Mark O'Keefe at the two-vehicle crash scene just south of Pioneer Trail. "If not for their actions, this woman would have died immediately."
Wading into water full of leaking fuel, some bystanders pulled driver Wilhelmine Leissler, 42, from the upside-down truck. Others held her 10-year-old son Michael's head above water as the child remained trapped in the wreckage, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jake Fisher said.
The mother was not breathing and lacked a pulse, O'Keefe said, but the rescuers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation to revive her. It took emergency workers 80 minutes to free Michael from the wreckage, he said.
Shawn Komskis, 17, of Port Orange was on his way to his uncle's Deltona home when he, his dad, cousin and best friend came across the accident. He said he ripped his shoes off as he ran to the truck, overturned in about 4 feet of water with the boy and mother screaming.
Two men were trying to rock the truck to turn it over, but were unsuccessful. The woman's screams stopped as the water rose over her head, the Atlantic High School student recalled, while the boy yelled that his arm was stuck, pinned between the vehicle's roof and seat.
"He couldn't hold himself up," said Komskis, who laid in the water cradling the child's head to keep it above water. "He's a good little kid -- he helped himself as much as I helped him."
Struggling to brace himself above the water in the cab filled with strong gasoline fumes, Komskis held up and talked to the crying boy, a fourth-grader at Samsula Elementary School, for about 15 minutes before firefighters arrived. "I can't say I was a hero," Komskis said. "I'll put it this way -- if it was me, I'd want someone to help me."
Meanwhile, other bystanders had managed to free the boy's mother from the smashed truck and were trying to revive her. Samsula resident Lisa Kransi, 32, said when she and her husband, William Eaton, 34, arrived on the scene, they kept hearing people say someone was under water. Unable to open the two front doors of the truck, Kransi said she managed to get her arm through one of the windows and hit the unlock button. The door was pulled open and Eaton helped get Wilhelmine Leissler's legs out from under the dashboard and pull her out of the car.
"She was unconscious. I tried to start CPR and another lady helped me," Kransi said.
She said she was unsure how long she did CPR or if she was successful, when paramedics arrived and took over.
"Never before in my life have I seen anything like that," Kransi said. "I hope I did everything I possibly could for her."
Trooper Fisher said Wilhelmine Leissler was driving north on S.R. 415 about 1:23 p.m. Sunday with her son, Michael, 10, and family friend Jordan Reimer, 13. She slowed to make a left turn onto Lakeshore Drive.
Meryl Hanson, 70, driving a truck with a 30-foot "fifth wheel" travel trailer, was directly behind Leissler and unable to stop, Fisher said. The Texas woman veered to the left, hitting the driver's side of Leissler's truck. Hanson's vehicle also ended up in the ditch, but it was right-side up, Fisher said.
Leissler and her son were taken by helicopter to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, O'Keefe said. Wilhelmine Leissler was in critical condition with life-threatening injuries Sunday night, while her son Michael was listed in serious condition, O'Keefe said.
Hanson was in stable condition and her husband, Louis Hanson, 83, a passenger in the truck, was in serious condition. The Texas couple were taken by ambulance to Halifax.
Reimer, of New Smyrna Beach, was uninjured and was not transported, O'Keefe said.
Fisher said Meryl Hanson was cited for careless driving. A portion of S.R. 415 was closed north of Kersey Road for more than two hours. Port Orange and Volusia County Fire Services, EVAC, Volusia County sheriff's deputies also assisted at the crash scene. A Volusia County firefighter suffered a minor knee injury and was taken to Halifax, but county fire officials declined to release her name or further information.
Stefanie Kochaw with Volusia County Environmental Services said about 25 gallons of fuel spilled into the water-filled ditch and county officials were still reviewing how to handle clean-up.
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