Couple meets 1 of 3 men who saved their lives after their vehicle rolled

Published: Monday, April 8 2013 3:25 p.m. MDT

George Simper recovers at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo on Saturday, April 6, 2013. He met and got a chance to thank Jack Pinckney, a former Navy reservists who helped him and his wife, Ragena, after a rollover near Soldier Summit on April 3, 2013.

Joe DeLuca, Deseret News

PROVO — A Tooele couple is lucky to be alive after their SUV crashed near Soldier Summit on U.S. 6.

Saturday, they got a chance to thank one of three men who saved their lives.

George Simper is recovering at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo. His wife Ragena, was released Sunday night. They are alive largely because of the quick efforts of three men: Jack Pinckney, a former Navy reservist; a former surgical tech named Eric Taylor; and a truck driver.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the Simpers and their two dogs were heading out on a camping trip in Goblin Valley when they lost control of their vehicle and rolled.

“I just know, all of a sudden, the trailer started dancing a bit,” Ragena Simper said.

A wind gust caused the couple's trailer to fishtail.

“The choices were either over-correct and roll or go off a 200-foot cliff,” George Simper said.

The truck rolled several times. Both of them were bleeding profusely, and George Simper had a severe head injury.

“I asked if he was alive,” Ragena Simper said. “He said, ‘Yes.’ And then I could smell smoke and see smoke, but I couldn't get out. I was trapped.”

What happened next the Simpers call a miracle. They said three guardian angels found them, and they had medical training.

Taylor used his shirt to protect his hands as he pulled the windshield out and applied pressure to George Simper's bleeding head. He said George Simper wanted to know if his wife was OK.

Pinckney focused on Ragena Simper, who was trapped and hanging by her seat belt.

"Somebody handed me a knife, and I just cut both of her seat belts out, and we yanked her out the front window," Pinckney said.

He said he could smell smoke, and the men knew they had to hurry.

"When the car was on fire, I knew we had probably less than a minute to get them out," Pinckney said.

A family member told George Simper an unidentified trucker stopped to assist about the time the truck caught on fire.

“He had the fire extinguisher in his hand as he came out of the cabin,” George Simper said. “He shut the fire down and got back in his cab and away he went.”

He added if it wasn’t for the help of these men, there was no way he and his wife would have survived. 

Chet Ingram, an EMT, arrived on the scene moments after the Simpers were pulled out of the vehicle. He was heading home from work when he came up on the accident.

“I just started first aid, did a quick assessment of George. I had seen that he had some pretty severe head trauma,” Ingram said, "and so I actually came on the ambulance with them, wanted to make sure they got the hospital OK."

He spoke with Ragena Simper by phone Friday and then visited the couple Saturday.

In all the confusion, there was no exchange of names or contact information.

Saturday, they were able to thank Pinckney for saving their lives. He visited the Simpers at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and told them his experience.

"It's so great to talk to somebody and tell them thank you," Ragena Simper said.

“I didn’t recognize his face when he came in, but I recognized his voice," George Simper said. "There’s a lot of reassurance that was there. He was working with me while I was still in the truck.”

Pinckney and his wife were driving home from Moab when they came across the crash scene on U.S. 6. Initially, Pinckney saw the couple's two dogs, which were running across the highway. When he went to help them, he realized he was dealing with something much more serious.

"When I rolled up, your hand was out the window, bracing yourself," Pinckney told George Simper. "It wasn't moving, and there was blood everywhere."

Doctors told the couple the initial responders probably saved their lives.

"I don't know that thank you covers it, but without him, according to our doctors, we wouldn't have been alive," Ragena Simper said. "I just really appreciate the opportunity to have more time with my grandchildren, my own children, my husband. I'm just grateful."

Pinckney said he isn't a hero. He was just being a good neighbor.

"I was just grateful they're still alive," he said.

Ragena Simper said a lot of people came to their rescue that day in addition the the first three men. Some people, like Ingram, stopped to give first aid, while others stopped to grab the dogs that were roaming around the accident scene. A lot of people, she said, just wanted to make sure that everything was OK.

“The whole situation there, the right people stopping at the right time, right when they were needed,” George Simper said.

E-mail: syi@ksl.com

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