‘It was go time:’ Off-duty firefighter describes fiery crash rescue

Jul 13, 2022, 6:10 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2022, 5:38 am

SALT LAKE CITY — An off-duty firefighter was with his family, wrapping up a monthslong recovery from injury when he jumped in to help a driver and two children in a rollover crash and grass fire on a Salt Lake City ramp.

“We’ve got our heads on a swivel and we’re always looking — whether we’re on duty or off duty — we’re looking for opportunities to be able to help individuals,” said Justin Morrow.

Morrow is a firefighter engineer, hazmat technician and EMT at the Salt Lake City Fire Department. For the last couple of months, he’s been recovering from an Achilles tendon rupture.

Monday was the day before he was set to return to full duty.

One critically injured after rollover crash that sparked SLC grass fire

After spending the day at Lagoon, he was driving with his family on Interstate 215, preparing to exit onto state Route 201 when he saw a cloud of dust near the ramp.

As he got closer, he could see a few people rushing to the scene of a crash just off the ramp.

“My wife actually asked me, ‘Hey are you going to go?’ And I’m like, ‘Yep, I’m going.’”

Morrow said he “didn’t even feel” his injury. “It was go time.”

Captain Shaun Mumedy with the Salt Lake City Fire Department said the driver missed the curve and rolled off the ramp, throwing him from the vehicle and leaving his two children stuck in the backseat.

Morrow saw two women rush to get the kids out of the “twisted” car seats as the engine caught fire.

“They knew that there was life in that vehicle that they needed to get in there and try to help,” he said.

Morrow then ran to the driver, who was in bad shape on the ground. He said normally you would not move a person with these serious injuries, but he saw flames spread toward them.

He asked one bystander to hold the driver’s head and another to control his torso as he took his legs. Together all three moved the driver from the path of the fire.

“If we hadn’t had made that decision, the fire most definitely would have overrun and potentially killed the patient,” Morrow said.

Medics arrived and transported all three victims to the hospital. Firefighters were able to quickly put out the flames.

Morrow is used to this sort of call on the job. The last 16 years of work and preparation allowed him to respond to the call for help whether he is on duty or not.

Still, Morrow credited bystanders for helping get the family to safety quickly.

“It was the most important part of this whole scenario was people just acting and doing something,” he said.

“I haven’t met or don’t know the background of these individuals but they ultimately were the ones who stepped up and led this rescue operation on this rollover.”

On Wednesday, the Utah Highway Patrol said the driver remained in critical condition at the hospital. The two children had minor injuries.

The investigation is ongoing but preliminary information showed speed may have been a factor in the crash.

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‘It was go time:’ Off-duty firefighter describes fiery crash rescue