If John E. Roach's ride had been on time Oct. 8, he wouldn't have been present to rescue three Stockton, Tooele County, women from a burning auto.
But the van, en route to take Roach to his job as a security guard at Tooele Army Depot, was late. And the Tooele man acted quickly and courageously to pull Shirley E. Peck, Ellen L. Montague and Marcia D. Watkins from their car after it was hit from behind by a truck and burst into flames in a residential area on the south side of Tooele."I was not frightened. I knew what I had to do and did it. There was no time to be frightened," said Roach, recipient of three awards.
The Commander's Award for Civilian Service was presented by the Department of the Army and the Tooele Army Depot. The Tooele 19th Ward, Tooele South Stake, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presented a "Be Prepared" Boy Scouting Award, and the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, Pittsburgh, Pa., recently notified Roach that he will receive a Carnegie Medal in "recognition of an outstanding act of heroism." A $2,500 check accompanied the citation.
A citation on the latter honor says Roach, now 43, "ran to the car, the rear and passenger side of which were aflame. As flames burned a leg of his trousers, Roach pulled on the car's jammed passenger doors several times before he was successful in opening it. He then reached inside the car, grasped Mrs. Peck and helped her away from the (two-door) car. Returning to (the car) he reached in for Mrs. Montague (who was pinned in the back seat) and led her to safety. Roach then ran to the driver's side of the car and told Mrs. Watkins to roll her window down. He (reached into the car), grasped (the badly injured woman) and pulled her through the window. He supported her as they moved away from the car, which shortly was engulfed in flames."
All three women required hospital treatment for extensive injuries, and Mrs. Peck and Mrs. Montague for burns. Only the left leg of Roach's polyester and cotton trousers was burned. Roach, who received only minor surface burns, returned to his home after the accident, changed clothes and went on to work.
Roach says if he had made the rescue in any other way that he wouldn't have been able to get Watkins out of the driver's seat of the car, which "went whoof when we were a foot away." Flames shot 30 to 40 feet in the air. Tooele volunteer firemen and emergency medical technicians arrived on the scene within minutes.
Roach was a security guard at Umatilla Army Depot, Oregon, for four years before moving to Tooele, where he guards toxic materials. He is a missionary in the Tooele South Stake, and has been an assistant Scoutmaster, Cubmaster and Scoutmaster. He and his wife, Charlene, have five children.- Douglas D. Palmer