SALT LAKE CITY — Good Samaritans lifted up the car that was pinning him to the ground in Holladay and dragged him to safety. Monday, the injured bicyclist — now out of the hospital — reflected on what happened and said he has forgiven the driver who hit him.
“I understand. Things happen, man. It’s OK. I forgive him,” Paul Heaton said in an interview in his apartment. “It’s an accident. Accidents happen.”
The 23-year-old University of Utah student — who also has served in Iraq for the National Guard — shows the signs of the accident. His right elbow is shattered. His left forearm is fractured, his left elbow chipped, his left shoulder severely injured. Scrapes and cuts are visible from head to toe. Stitches mark Heaton’s legs and face.
A dented bicycle helmet saved Heaton from a potential brain injury.
It was dark when Heaton tried to cross 4500 South near Highland Drive on Oct. 18. He misjudged the speed of an oncoming car that hit him, knocking his bicycle out from under him and pinning him under the car.
He still can’t forget the weight of the car on his pinned body.
“So much pressure was laying on it that I wasn’t going to be lasting that much longer,” Heaton said. “I’m pretty sure that I would have had my pelvis or my hips just shattered.”
Heaton said when his rescuers approached the accident, he told them to get a jack.
“We all looked for a car jack in our cars and decided there wasn’t enough time,” one of the rescuers, Angela Clawson, said Thursday.
Instead, Clawson and at least five others lifted the car. Heaton said their first attempt failed, but a second, stronger attempt was successful. An emergency room doctor – who just happened to be on scene – and others carefully pulled Heaton from his tight spot.
“They’re heroes to me. That doctor definitely is,” Heaton said. “I’m like, you guys are awesome. They might not see it everywhere else, but you guys are heroes.”
Heaton and Clawson both recalled the similarities in this story to one in Logan in September – where video and pictures captured a crowd of people rushing to the aid of a motorcyclist trapped beneath a burning car.
Heaton is facing a lengthy recovery. He said he was told by doctors it would take 3 to 4 months for a full recovery.