For Mike Rumble, the serenity of a late October evening was destroyed by a crash he heard, and probably felt, from inside his home. He immediately sensed it was bad.
“I ran out, saw the two vehicles and had my boy grab a fire extinguisher,” said the Dilliner resident, recalling the scene on Route 88, about 100 yards from where he lived.
An SUV and a car had collided on a hazardous curve, and the car was burning. A young woman was inside, behind a steering wheel loosened by impact with her body – battered, bleeding, lapsing into and out of consciousness and scared unlike any time in her life.
“She looked up and said, ‘Don’t leave me to die,’” Rumble recalled. “I told her, ‘I would never do that.’”
Rumble and his son, Tyler, 21, went through five extinguishers, but the blaze continued to reignite. Rumble realized he had to remove her from the car, but gently to avoid further injury. He pulled the steering wheel loose, providing her room, then with the help of a Cheat Lake firefighter, who had fortuitously stopped, they lifted the victim gingerly through the driver’s window.
“Her legs and arms were like noodles when we carried her,” Rumble said. “It wasn’t 10 seconds after we laid her in the grass that the car blew up.”
Paramedics worked on the young woman, who was flown to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., with pervasive injuries. But she was alive, and still is thankful to the man who placed himself in danger to save her life. Actually, two lives.
Jessica Burwell, 25, continues to rally from the pain, the surgeries, the psychological trauma resulting from the events of Oct. 28. Then Sunday, a little more than eight months after that extreme valley, she scaled a peak. Jessica gave birth to a boy who had been conceived weeks before the crash. Nathan William Krysak Jr. – 5 pounds, 6 ounces – arrived shortly before midnight.
Despite his reluctance, Mike Rumble is a hero. “I didn’t do anything anyone else wouldn’t do,” said a humble Rumble, 50.
“I have no words to describe how grateful we are. It was just an amazing thing that he did,” said Michelle Krysak, a Greensboro resident who nominated Rumble. She also is the mother of Nathan Krysak Sr., 28, father of the baby. All of them, and Jessica, live in Michelle’s home.
In an amazing coincidence, Michelle remembers Mike from when he was a child. Her grandmother, the late Ruth Patterson, lived next to his family in Greensboro. Mike’s parents still reside there.
Ten days ago, Mike and Jessica met for the first time since that fateful evening before Halloween. They and Michelle gathered at Mike’s business, Rumble Trucking, across Rosedale Street from his home.
Asked what she wanted to say to him, Jessica looked at Rumble, choked up, managed a barely audible “Thank you” and sobbed before they embraced.
Jessica’s journey since the accident has been intensive and time-consuming. She was hospitalized for a month and used a wheelchair for three. (Michelle’s husband, John, built ramps at their home to accommodate Jessica.) The young woman had multiple broken bones, some of which are fastened by screws, and nearly lost a kidney. She still has swelling and pain in her legs and continues with physical therapy.
Amazingly, there were no burns.
Rumble said the SUV driver was uninjured. Jessica was en route from Point Marion to Greensboro when the collision occurred.
The horrible aftermath remains a blur to her. “I don’t remember much,” she said. “I remember waking up, the car was on fire and I couldn’t move. I kept going in and out (of consciousness).
“I knew I was in a wreck, but didn’t know how serious it was until I woke up in the hospital after emergency surgeries.”
Burn marks that remain at the crash site attest to the seriousness of the crash. Rumble said he still finds pieces of the destroyed car when he mows a grassy strip off Route 88. He picked up three scraps of debris during the interview for this story.
An easygoing guy with a keen sense of humor, Rumble is a lifelong resident of southeastern Greene County. He graduated from Mapletown High School in the mid-1980s and has owned his trucking business for 30 years. His wife, Andrea, and their other son are health-care professionals. Andrea is the financial systems coordinator for West Virginia University Hospitals, and Michael, 23, is a nurse.
“I tell my wife I’m into fitness. I walk to work every day,” Mike Rumble said, looking over to his home, a 45-second stroll from the shop.
Little seems to faze him, either.
“If you know me, you know I never get excited,” Rumble said of the rescue process, which he estimated to last 10 minutes. “I didn’t think about what was happening. I was focused on getting her out.”
He did, saving a young life and one that was just forming.