Naval training pays off at North Augusta crash

A Navy reservist says he was just "doing what (he) was trained to do" when he pulled an unconscious woman from her burning vehicle.


Iry Jernigan Jr. said he observed Mary Chad "shaking" and her hands off the steering wheel shortly before her car veered into a utility pole on Georgia Avenue and caught fire Friday.

Jernigan said he and some others stopped to check on Chad, who was driving a 1993 Buick LeSabre toward Augusta about noon.

"When I got to the door, there were flames under the hood," Jernigan said.

"The window happened to already be down, so it was easy to get the door open."

Jernigan, trained by the Navy in emergency response, had a tool that cuts seat belts.

He cut the belt, then he and another bystander carried Chad away from the burning car, making sure to support her head and back as they laid her in a grassy area.

As law enforcement began to arrive, Jernigan said he tried to direct traffic around the burning car, which came to rest in the outer westbound lane of Georgia Avenue.

When he observed Chad talking with emergency medical technicians, Jernigan said he continued on with the errand he'd been on -- to cash a check and get a haircut.

"I was just glad she was OK," said Jernigan, who is pursuing a biology degree at Paine College.

Chad said Sunday that she did not recall the wreck, her rescue or the conversation she had with North Augusta Public Safety.

Chad, who told officers she has epilepsy, said Sunday that she had not had a seizure in "a very long time."

To Jernigan, she offered: "Thank you very much. My daughter and my son both appreciate it."

The experience leaves Chad unwilling to get back behind the wheel "for a long time," she said.

Chad had cared for her mother until her death in November and was returning Friday to Medical College of Georgia, where she'd stayed Thursday night with friend Jerry Ridgell, who was recovering from bypass surgery.

Ridgell, speculating that Chad was dehydrated and hadn't slept well the night before, said he and Chad spoke briefly when she arrived in the emergency room.