One life was rescued amid a group of friends’ late-night ramblings. And the other life, during a cool morning as runners hit the pavement.
Both rescues happened just one mile apart in Battle Ground on July 21. The rescuers — Vancouver residents Joseph Inman, 24, and Cherise Moore, 45 — were honored at a Battle Ground City Council meeting in September for their lifesaving efforts.
Joseph Inman describes himself as someone who likes to stay up late. Around midnight, he was hanging out with three of his friends and his nephew in Battle Ground when they decided to venture out for food.
The streets of downtown were empty, save for a car stopped in front of them in the turn lane at Main Street and Parkway Avenue. Inman doesn’t remember the car, but he remembers the Oregon license plate because he had seen it before: “RACHET.” When the light turned green to turn north onto Parkway, the car didn’t budge.
Rhett Hazen, Inman’s friend who was driving, honked his car horn. They were goofing around, yelling and honking at the immobile vehicle. Eventually, Hazen got out to see what was going on. A young man was at the wheel and appeared drunk. He got out, shook hands with Hazen, and got back into the car. Then, the car took off, speeding up Parkway Avenue well above the posted speed limit of 25 mph.
Concerned, they followed the car, which was driving in the center passing lane. Inman, familiar with Battle Ground streets, knew that the car would eventually strike a raised pedestrian walkway if he continued in the center lane. Inman estimates the car was going 50 mph. He could barely make out the car by the time there was a loud crack and the car’s lights disappeared. Car parts were strewn across the roadway and black smoke curled into the night sky. The license plate, RACHET, lay in the middle of the road.
At 1:02 a.m., calls from neighbors near the intersection, Ninth Street and Parkway Avenue, started flooding 911. The flames stretched too high for anyone to tell what type of car had crashed and caught on fire. Dispatchers advised people to stand far away from the vehicle, later identified by police as a 1994 Honda Accord.
Inman got out of Hazen’s car and sprinted to the fire. Flames were coming out of the rear and the driver’s side, and gasoline had pooled around the car. He froze briefly, thinking back to movie scenes with deadly car explosions. He had to tell himself to not be afraid of dying.
Instead of turning back, he kicked in the passenger window and unlocked the door. The 16-year-old driver, whose name was not released, was slumped over the wheel. Inman reached over and dragged him out of the car, onto the grass by the sidewalk.
“He pulled him out. Oh my gosh,” said one caller to a 911 dispatcher.
By the time emergency responders arrived, the car was engulfed in flames. The driver was incoherent and in pain, Inman said, but alive. He was transported to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and later arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Last Inman heard, the teen he rescued had a cracked sternum and bruises on his legs. He never really talked to him, though.
Looking back, Inman says he didn’t want to live with the guilt of not saving someone who could be saved. He wasn’t surprised by his quick-thinking actions — he expected it of himself.
“We need people willing to help,” Inman said.
Cherise Moore left the starting line for the 8-kilometer race in Battle Ground Village during the city’s annual Harvest Day celebration.
It was a cool, overcast morning, said Elba Benzler, event director for the races happening that morning. The course was relatively flat, save for the uphill climb past Rusty Grape Vineyard on Northeast 219th Street.
Moore, who declined to be interviewed, approached the 4-mile mark at Grace Avenue and East Main Street shortly before 8:30 a.m. when a fellow runner collapsed on the pavement in front of her. He wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. A registered nurse, she sprang into action and started performing CPR on the man.
Though there were people trained in CPR at every water station, there wasn’t one nearby at that point on the course. Veronica James, of Fairfax, W.Va., also a nurse, stopped and offered to help. Together, they continued performing CPR. When medics arrived, they used an automated external defibrillator to revive the man, whose name was not released. He was transported to a local hospital.
Soon after, Benzler said the man celebrated his fifth wedding anniversary in the hospital with his wife. Benzler even had a chance to give the man his honorary finisher’s medal.
Moore got her medal, as well. She finished dead last in the 8K race — 171st out of 171 runners. She was less than a mile from the finish line when she stopped to help the fallen runner.
“His safety was more important to them than finishing in a timely matter,” Benzler said.
Moore regularly runs competitively and typically places in the middle of her age bracket. She went on to compete in the Every Girl’s 5K Run in Ridgefield about a month later.
The fact that Moore and James and Inman all stopped to help someone who needed it on a midsummer Sunday is no surprise to Benzler. “There’s always a helping hand around every corner,” she said.