SOUTH OGDEN — Nine-year-old Tennessee is smiling, even though he has stitches on his forehead.
His father, Scott Nichols, said his son is doing well, in part because a stranger helped them after the family was involved in a 29-vehicle pileup Saturday near Brigham City.
Nichols and his two sons were on I-15 in Saturday when a snowstorm changed everything.
“(I) started to slow down, and it was too late," Nichols said. "I saw a lot of cars up ahead, a lot of brake lights. I told the boys, ‘Hang on! We’re gonna hit.’”
Ric Scothern was on his way home to get his wife when he saw the storm rolling in, so he slowed down.
“Up in front of me, all of a sudden, it was a just all chaos,” Scothern said. “I saw a semi going this way. I saw cars flipping this way. I looked up in my mirror, and I saw a white suburban sliding sideways, coming straight at me.”
He moved quickly to the shoulder to avoid impact.
“To be honest, my initial feeling was, ‘I’m out here, I’m out of Dodge,’ you know. It was so unbelievable,” Scothern said.
But looking at the crushed metal and a semitrailer off the road, the former Box Elder County search and rescue dive team member knew what he had to do.
“(I) called my wife, and I said, ‘You’re gonna have to be late to work. I can’t believe it. I just drove through the middle of a pileup, and I can’t leave. There’s gonna be some people hurt here, and I’ve gotta do what I can,’” Scothern said.
He ran from car to car, asking people if they were OK. He said he got the OK sign from a number of people.
“I kept going until I got to Scott and the boys and the dog,” Scothern said. “(I) looked in the window, and I could see that Tennessee was bleeding on the right side of his head. He had a couple of pretty good gashes there, and he had blood down his face and his coat from putting his hand up.”
He asked Nichols if he had something clean he could press against the wound to stop the bleeding. After a moment, Scothern told Nichols he needed to hold the cloth in place while he went to check on the other vehicles.
As Scothern was running by, checking on others here along the freeway, he heard something unusual, far beyond your typical call for help. He heard singing, coming from inside a Honda Accord.
“As I was coming back, she was singing ‘I Need Thee Every Hour,’” Scothern recalled. “She was leaning to her faith.”
That woman helped turn something that was frantic into an “unbelievable, surreal experience,” he said.
“I knew she had enough help there until an extrication could come, so I went back to Scott and the boys.”
Ambulances arrived on scene. One woman suffered critical injuries and as many as eight other people also sustained injuries, including Tennessee, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.
Nichols loaded the family’s personal items in Scothern’s vehicle. From there, the family took Nichols and his other son to the hospital to meet up with Tennessee.
The 9-year-old got a few stitches. Grateful for what Scothern had done for his family, Nichols decided to take a picture of his son.
“Just thought I’d shoot him (Scothern) a little picture of Tennessee smiling. I said, ‘Hey, this is for Ric, the gentleman that helped you,’ so he smiled,” Nichols said.
The boy was well enough to go back to school on Monday.
“There’s definitely people that come across your life in times of need,” Nichols said.
Scothern was just glad he could help.
“It was a grand display of humanitarian care of so many people, all doing everything they could do, what they could until the authorities got there,” he said.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company