homepage logo

Five Cape heroes honored at special ceremony

By Staff | Nov 15, 2011

It was an emotional moment Tuesday when five people were honored for risking their lives to save the victims of a recent fiery traffic crash.

“We wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for them,” Jennifer Fox said of herself and her twin daughters, 17-year-old Jeana and Kayla Reaud.

“They deserve everything they get, plus some,” Fox said through tears.

On Oct. 27, a van and a car collided at the intersection of Veterans Parkway and Surfside Boulevard in Cape Coral. As a result, the van – occupied by Fox and her daughters – caught on fire. The women could not get out.

“We were stuck,” Fox said, unable to talk about the incident further.

Five bystanders quickly rushed in to help. They removed the rear window of the van, pulled the women out and moved them to safety. They then removed the occupants of the car, a Lee County deputy and his 15-year-old son, Ben.

“They had to wake me up and get me out,” Deputy Rich Lisenbee said, explaining that he was knocked unconscious in the collision.

“I remember feeling the heat, the tremendous heat on my arm,” Lisenbee said, referring to the flames coming from the van.

“It’s tremendous what they did,” he said. “They risked their life for ours.”

The rescuers – Tyler Hugh James, James J. McBreen, Michael O’Dea, Logan Palmer and Cindy L. Smith – were honored Tuesday for their heroic efforts.

At the monthly “Do The Right Thing” ceremony, the Cape fire department, city officials and community recognized the five for their selfless actions.

Smith was sitting at a red light when the crash occurred before her.

“It happened so quickly,” she said Tuesday, adding that the van suddenly caught on fire after the impact. “I just automatically jumped out of my car.”

Still in a bathrobe – Smith had just dropped off her daughter at Ida S. Baker High School – she ran to the van and tried unsuccessfully to open the doors.

“We need to get these people out,” Smith said of what she was thinking.

“It was just like a whirlwind,” she added.

They eventually got the women out, then Lisenbee and his son. Smith said she remembered feeling relieved once it was over, then she saw the van.

“The van was totally engulfed in flames,” she said.

“It was a very scary situation,” Smith added.

O’Dea and James were working nearby when they heard the collision.

“It was so loud we heard it over the drill,” O’Dea said.

They watched as flames appeared on the van.

“Nobody was getting out of either vehicle,” he said.

James made a comment about how he hoped that there were no children in either vehicle, provoking both men to rush to the crash scene. There was one woman still in the van. O’Dea and James then turned to Lisenbee and his son.

They removed Ben first at his father’s pleas, then worked on Lisenbee.

“He was kinda pinned in there, so we kinda yanked him out,” O’Dea said.

He added that he simply hopes that someone would do the same for him.

“I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal,” O’Dea said of his actions.

Smith echoed that, explaining that she appreciated the honor Tuesday and was grateful, but that she would have done what she did regardless of it.

“I felt good about myself,” she said.

Lisenbee argued that the actions of the five were worth recognizing.

“I just think that the people that helped put their life on the line to help us out,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse.”