Richfield fire, police honored with Star of Life award

Amputee victim gets a chance for new career

by Dan Holland

Members of Richfield safety forces were honored Nov. 7 at the EMS Star of Life Awards in Columbus for actions related to their collective response to a vehicle accident on I-77 on Sept. 12, 2021, involving the rescue of a gravely injured motorist.

Police and fire were dispatched to the scene of the accident, which occurred around 5:30 a.m., to find driver Tyrek Mills, 24 of Cleveland, with his legs pinned between the front driver’s door and door frame following impact from a second vehicle.

According to the accident report, Mills had crashed into the end of a guardrail along mile marker 145 driving southbound. His disabled vehicle was facing east, partially blocking the left lane. As Mills was reaching through the driver’s side door, a second vehicle struck his car at a high rate of speed.

Police and EMS were dispatched to the accident by dispatcher Nicole Keserich. Police officers Joel Meister and Doug McArtor were first to arrive on the scene. Due to the injuries, they requested that University Hospitals MedEvac be on standby. Paramedic/firefighters Robert Benza, David Kren, Lt. Jason Purkey and Fire Chief George Seifert soon arrived on the scene to perform a complicated extrication to remove the driver.

“We had to do an extrication to remove the gentleman’s legs from the door before we could get him out of the car. Using various tools, we were able to free him in a relatively short amount of time. When using one tool, if it starts to push one way, we had to use another tool to counter push so it wouldn’t do more damage to him,” said Seifert.

Tourniquets were applied to both of Mills’ legs during the extrication to control bleeding. The extraction took 17 minutes.

“He was talking to us the whole time. He was conscious and in relatively good spirits even though he blacked out a few times when we actually started moving him,” added Seifert.

MedEvac personnel landed at the scene and transported Mills to Akron General Hospital, with 41 minutes passing from the time of the 911 call to his arrival for emergency medical care.

The Medvac helicopter hovered overhead and then landed on I-77, several feet from where the victim was strapped onto a stretcher.

“We got lucky, because MedEvac was flying back to their base,” said Seifert. “So, there was no delay. They were literally overhead while we were still working on him, and they were able to bring the cot up to the car right when we got his legs free.”

Subsequently, medical personnel had to amputate both of his legs, one below the knee and the other above.

Seifert, Benza and Purkey recently met up with Mills for dinner at an area restaurant. Mills is now able to walk with the use of prosthetic limbs.

Accident victim Tyrek Mills (front) met with some of the safety forces that saved his life: (back row, l-r) Chief George Seifert, Paramedic Robert Benza and Lt. Jason Purkey. Photo provided by
Richfield Fire Depatment.

“He was very appreciative toward us,” said Seifert. “When he walked into the restaurant, you would have no idea that he had lost both lower legs. … It was great to see that.”

“Everyone was at the right place at the right time,” said Mills by phone. “I got a chance recently to meet up with some of the firefighters who were on scene that day, and all of them told me me that they weren’t scheduled [to work] that night, and the helicopter just happened to be flying over from another call. It just all lined up at the right time, and everyone was doing their job the right way.”

He added, “It couldn’t have happened any better for the circumstance that I was in. The only thing I could think was just to thank the good Lord up above.”

As a result of the incident, Mills, who had been a factory worker, ended up with a new career, working for a prosthetics and bionics company in Akron.

“My prosthetic clinician, who got my prosthetics and got me up and walking again, told me about a position with a prosthetics company, and lo and behold, I got the job,” said Mills.

“So, now I get to help people who are going through similar situations like I did. My life has changed, but I’ve been able to make the best of it, and I’m able to affect other people who are in a similar position.”

The young father of four said he is grateful to be able to continue fully engaging in activities with his children.

“Firefighters are underappreciated; they’re out there savings lives every day,” said Mills. “Those guys did an amazing job that night; they really went above and beyond.”

Meister, McArtor, Keserich, Benza, Kren, Purkey and Seifert were all honored at the Star of Life Award Ceremony along with UH MedEvac personnel.

“It was a big honor for us,” said Seifert. “We’re not in it to get recognition or awards, but it is nice when it does occur and that we stood out above other departments, as in this particular instance. Across the board, Northeast Ohio has great fire departments.” ∞

Featured Photo: Patrol Officer Joel Meister, Fire Chief George Seifert, Paramedic Robert Benza, Lt. Jason Purkey and Patrol Officer Doug McArtor were honored at Ohio’s EMS Star of Life award ceremony for a complicated extraction of a victim in an automobile crash. Not pictured Paramedic David Kren and the crew of the MedEvac helicopter.  Photos submitted