Firefighters credit Lawrence woman and her friends with saving woman trapped after fiery car crash in Ellsworth County

photo by: Lt. Jeff Landon/Contributed Photo

This contributed photo shows the remnants of a vehicle that crashed and burned on Interstate 70 in Ellsworth County, Kan., on Sept. 5, 2020.

Members of Ellsworth County Fire and Rescue have credited a Lawrence woman and her friends with saving strangers’ lives from a fiery car crash.

Makenzie Rodgers, 24, of Lawrence, was driving to Colorado for a vacation with her friends, Jacque Shorten, 23, and her husband Josh Shorten, 25, both of Baldwin City, and Mitchell Antes, 25, of De Soto.

It was close to 4 a.m. on Sept. 5 as they drove down Interstate 70. The group saw something on fire in a ditch in the median, and as they got closer they realized it was a car, Rodgers said. Within the couple of minutes it took them to turn around and head back, the fire had doubled in size, she said.

photo by: Contributed Photo

Pictured left to right are Makenzie Rodgers and Jacque Shorten in the front seat and Mitchell Antes and Josh Shorten in the back seat. The group of friends was en route to Colorado on Sept. 5, 2020, when they found a vehicle on fire and helped save a woman who was trapped.

Rodgers said that as she and her friends ran toward the fire, they could hear a woman screaming and a man calling for help.

They realized the car was on its side and the woman was trapped under its tire, Rodgers said. The man had gotten the two children — a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old — out of the car and had them lying on the ground, she said.

“I knew we had to help; we had to get the car off of her,” Rodgers said.

Jacque Shorten called 911, then took the children and sat in the car with them, Rodgers said, and the group flagged down help. A semitruck driver stopped and brought a fire extinguisher.

It took four men to push the vehicle off the woman, but they managed to do it, and they carried her up the hill. Shortly thereafter, first responders arrived. The woman was flown to a hospital by a helicopter, Rodgers said, and eventually the man and the two children were taken to a hospital by ground ambulance.

photo by: Lt. Jeff Landon/Contributed Photo

A wrecked and burned vehicle is pictured off Interstate 70 in Ellsworth County, Kan., on Sept. 5, 2020.

Lt. Jeff Landon of Ellsworth County Fire and Rescue said he did not know all of the circumstances that led to the single-vehicle crash at mile marker 227. But, in sharing the story with the Journal-World, he said that the department works a lot of crashes on I-70 and it celebrates good news, “especially when young people like this take action.”

“What these kids did was extraordinary and certainly changed what would have been a horrible outcome,” Landon said via email.

The children had been properly restrained and they weren’t injured, Landon said.

The whole experience is still a bit surreal for Rodgers.

“Even now, it’s like, ‘Was that real? Did that really happen?'” she said. “… It was like something out of a horror movie.”

First responders with Ellsworth County Fire and Rescue said in a statement that most people will go about their own business, “concerned with nothing but their own.” But Rodgers and her friends were “in a strange position in the dark of night, seemingly in the middle of no where.

“Because of you and your courageous and selfless actions – You Saved Lives,” the statement continued. “We thank you and thank God for this wonderful blessing.”

Rodgers said that if she and her friends had just called for help and hadn’t stopped, the people in the crash could’ve been dead by the time first responders arrived.

“If you see something, stop, and help if you can,” she said.

The group of friends did what they thought was right, and what they’d want somebody else to do if it had been them in that situation, Rodgers said. She said she hopes those who were injured are recovering well and doing OK.

“I hope we never have to do it again, but I am so glad that God put us there at that time, and saved their lives,” she said.

photo by: Lt. Jeff Landon/Contributed Photo

An air ambulance lands on Interstate 70 in Ellsworth County, Kan., in the early hours of Sept. 5, 2020.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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