Man's heroics honored
Jim Dupont, of Cassville, was recently named the Hero of the Year by the Postal Workers Union during ceremonies held in Washington D.C. But to ask him, he says he is no hero.
Dupont, a mail carrier in Rogers, Ark., was on his way home after delivering mail to over 1,000 customers on the night of June 6, 2009, when he came across a wreck involving a pickup truck and a car. The crash occurred on Highway F, which runs through Mark Twain National Forest in Barry County.
The first to arrive at the scene, Dupont parked his vehicle and immediately tried to call 911 but was not successful. He went to the aid of the three victims of the crash.
"I started to check out the driver of the car first, but he appeared not to be in any danger," Dupont recalled. "I heard screams coming from the pickup truck and changed direction, hoping to aid those trapped in the vehicle.
"As I was pulling on the door of the truck I saw a flash to the left, and saw that the car had caught on fire.
"The driver of the car, Ryan Rowley, sat up and looked at me. I started screaming for him to get out of the car. He yelled back that he couldn't get out because his leg was pinned."
Dupont left the truck and went to the aid of Rowley, whose leg was pinned in the car by the motor.
"I told him I was going to grab him and pull like hell to get him out," Dupont said. "We both knew that there was no other choice. He said 'Don't leave me in this fire.'"
Dupont was able to extricate Rowley from the vehicle and get him a safe distance from the burning car.
"By the time I had Rowley out of his car, the truck had caught fire," Dupont said. "The driver of the truck, Jonathan Larson, was trying to get out of the truck, but the door wouldn't budge. Eventually, he launched himself out the back window, which was broken. I pulled him out and into the bed of the truck.
"He had multiple fractures of both legs and a broken jaw," Dupont continued. "He grabbed his jaw and pulled it back into place and said 'My girl is in there. Save her.'"
Dupont said he hadn't seen the girl, Chasity Moore. Another good Samaritan from Neosho, whose name Dupont can't recall in the aftermath of the life-changing event, helped remove Larson from the pickup truck as Dupont went through the window of the truck to rescue Moore.
"You know how they say your life flashes before your eyes?" Dupont asked. "Mine did. I saw scenes from when I was a kid all the way up through the present. Just flashes. But I had to go back into that flaming truck to get her.
"She was on fire," Dupont continued. "She was slumped behind the steering wheel. I could only reach her with one hand. I started pulling her toward me until I could use both hands to pull her from the wreckage."
Dupont thought that Moore was dead. There was no expression in her open eyes. But after running to his vehicle to get a blanket to lay over her, Moore gasped in pain and started screaming and flailing at her burns.
By then, police and fire personnel had arrived and an ambulance was on the way. Dupont sat down in the ditch to rest as emergency personnel took over the scene.
For awhile, it appeared that the victims of the wreck would not survive. Larson was on life support for 10 days, and Moore eventually had to have one leg amputated to control the infection from the burns that covered a majority of her body, but survived.
"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to help these people," Dupont said. "But the experience has changed me."
In his efforts to assist the victims of the wreckage, Dupont tore tendons in both of his shoulders, aggravating an existing work-related condition. The resulting time off has allowed him to evaluate his life and priorities.
"I still stay in contact with Chasity," Dupont said. "She is an inspiration to me. She is always in a good mood, cheerful, happy to be alive. She has a lot of courage.
"To me, she is a hero," Dupont said. "The firefighters that are trained to go into danger every day of their lives are heroes. They do this every day on a volunteer basis. The thousands of mail carriers who check on their customers every day of the week are heroes."