Red Cross honors acts of heroism, many by ordinary people

EVERETT — The impact of the collision ripped a car in half. Two passengers sat in the front half of the car. Both were unconscious.

The back half of the severed sedan sat 80 feet away and burst into flames.

The collision occurred near the Kmart on Evergreen Way about 10:30 p.m. July 23. Debris from the collision littered the street and nearby parking lots. A second car ended up about 30 feet short of the entrance to the Boeing freeway.

In her 14 years as an Everett police officer, Ursula Clifton had never seen an accident so “massively destructive.”

“It looked like a war zone,” Clifton said. “You don’t really think about it when you get tossed into something like that. You just react.”

She smelled oil and burning foam from the first car’s interior. Despite the intensity of the smells and scene before her, Clifton knew she had to take charge.

“You have to maintain composure,” she said. “You have to be the leader.”

Clifton, 39, of Marysville, is one of 13 people being recognized today with Real Hero awards for their actions to save others.

At the time, Clifton didn’t know if there were people trapped in the back half of the car, which had burst into flames. People were trying to douse the flames with extinguishers.

But before her were two women — a mother and daughter, she learned later. The daughter was bleeding severely from two deep cuts to her neck.

“I talked to her and tried to keep her calm and still,” Clifton said. The young woman had started to stir and was moaning in pain.

“It’s going to be OK,” she remembers telling her. “I’m a police officer. I’ll stand here with you.”

This is the 14th year the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross has presented the awards. An estimated 900 people are expected to attend this morning’s event, scheduled for the Tulalip Resort Casino.

The Red Cross hopes to raise about $160,000 from the breakfast, which helps fund the chapter’s activities, said Kay Cramer, development director.

Clifton was so focused on assisting the young woman in the wrecked car and summoning help to the scene that she didn’t notice a fire burning near her feet, potentially endangering her, too, until another officer extinguished the fire.

“It was a very powerful, very emotional scene,” Clifton said.

She is credited with helping stabilize the young woman’s condition until medics arrived.

The mother and daughter were rushed to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment. Both survived.

That the young woman is alive today, in part because of her actions, not only provides a happy ending, but also is something of an emotional balm to the stress and chaos of that night.

“I’m glad I could have assisted in saving her life,” Clifton said.

Clifton said she thinks there were many heroes at the accident scene, from the people who initially helped battle the blaze in the rear half of the car to fellow officers who quickly arrived to help her.

“I’m very grateful for the recognition,” she said of being selected for the Real Hero award. But she said she tries to tell everyone who asks her about it, “I felt it was my duty and responsibility to do what it did.

“It wasn’t a ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ ” she said. “I really didn’t have to think about it.”

Other winners recognized in various categories with Real Hero awards were:

Good Samaritan: Elsa Svensson, 43, of Arlington, and a friend were climbing a section of rock for a better view of Asbestos Creek Falls near Darrington on Aug. 3 when suddenly he slipped and fell down the rocky embankment. Discovering her friend unresponsive and facedown in the water, she acted quickly, using CPR and first aid to save his life.

River Rescue: Nathan McGrath, 29, and Jeremy Darrow, 27, both of Stanwood, jumped into the frigid waters of the Stillaguamish River on April 15. They rescued 16-year-old Julie Faragher after her car spun out of control and flipped into the river. The two men dragged her to shore where Stanwood Police Chief Ty Trennary and Sgt. Barry Ruchty performed CPR to resuscitate the teen.

Medical Hero: Paula Townsend, 36, of Marysville, sprang into action Sept. 12 when a woman pulled into the parking lot of a Marysville pizzeria screaming for someone to call 911. A 2-year-old girl in the car was turning blue. Townsend, a medical assistant, started CPR. Her quick response is credited with saving the girl’s life.

Good Samaritan: Sara Denton, 25, of Stanwood, driving on May 29 saw a commotion ahead on the roadway. She saw two bystanders attempting to help an unconscious man. Trained in CPR and advanced first aid, she took control of the situation, successfully directing the team in providing life saving CPR.

Youth Good Samaritan: Liberty Davis, 14, of Snohomish, jumped into the path of a moving car in a parking lot in April to snatch a 3-year-old out of harm’s way.

Good Samaritan: Genelle Ackley, 58, of Snohomish, witnessed in February a 2-year-old boy being struck by a full-size pickup truck. When she approached the toddler, his lips were turning blue and he was unresponsive. She started CPR and the boy has since fully recovered.

Fire Rescue: Brandon Sager, 25, of Lynnwood, and Joshua Lankford, 21, of Everett, ran into a burning apartment complex in south Everett Aug. 7 to alert the tenants and help them evacuate. Although the fire was spreading rapidly, everyone was safely evacuated.

Adult Good Samaritan: Nancy Felke, 48, of Arlington, received a desperate call for help from her neighbor at 4:30 a.m March 11. When she arrived at their house, she discovered her friend’s husband, unconscious. Nancy began CPR and continued the life-saving technique for nine minutes until an aid car arrived.

Law Enforcement: Sgt. Karl Roth, 50, and Officer Justin Lee, 36, both of Edmonds, on June 18 saw a car that had tumbled off a cliff and down 200 feet, landing upside down and wedged against a tree. The driver was pinned under the car. They prevented the car from crushing the woman.

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