‘He held my hand’ | Teen nearly killed in prom night crash thanks first responders

CENTRAL — A teenager who was seriously injured in a devastating prom night crash earlier this month is saying thanks and expressing her heartfelt gratitude to the first responders who saved her life.

Rylee Vickry, 17, is currently in the process of recovering from the multiple fractures she suffered during the collision on May 6. Vickry was among a group of friends, including Kade Furr, Mallory Hall, and Cameron Patterson, when their vehicle was struck head-on on the Central Thruway.

“I felt the car flip”

“I remember everything,” Vickry recalls vividly, referring to the crash that left her, Hall, and Patterson hospitalized.

Recalling the fateful moment, she adds, “I remember all of us in the car, listening to music at a low volume. We weren’t talking, and then suddenly, we saw headlights, and everything went silent. I felt the car flip, and I heard my friend Mallory start to scream.”

Hall and Patterson managed to escape through the front windshield, but Vickry, who was seated in the back, and Furr, who was driving, remained trapped.

“A bystander arrived and placed jacks under the car to prevent it from rolling,” Vickry shared. “(First responders) couldn’t extricate me for a while. I just sat there, not wanting to cry or panic. I stared and waited. Jeremy Lawson, one of the firefighters, was there, and he helped keep me calm. He crawled into the back of the car, held my hand, and reassured me that everything would be okay.”

“He wasn’t moving or talking”

Firefighters had to use tools to free Vickry and Furr from the wreckage, ensuring their safety by shielding them from sparks and flying glass with tarps.

Reliving the crash feels surreal to Vickry.

“I didn’t think it was real. It felt as if I wasn’t there. But then, when we finally stopped rolling, I caught my breath, and I knew I was alive,” she shared.

Initially, Vickry and her friends feared that Furr hadn’t survived the crash.

“He wasn’t moving or talking or anything. When his dad arrived, he started talking.” Miraculously, Furr didn’t sustain any physical injuries.

“I often think about how we could have died”

Vickry, who broke her femur in three places, underwent surgery to have a rod inserted in her leg, which will likely remain there for the rest of her life. She continues to struggle with walking as her body gradually heals.

“I often think about how we could have died,” Vickry confides. “Many people tell me that considering the severity of the crash, we should all have perished. But now, looking back, we are all grateful for the way things played out.”

As part of her recovery journey, Vickry returned to the East Side Fire Department, nearly a month after the prom night accident, to personally say thanks and express her gratitude to the first responders. This includes firefighter Jeremy Lawson, who remained by her side until she was safely rescued from the wreckage. Lawson recently recounted the events of that night to UWK.

“It was a terrible, terrible crash,” Lawson recalled. “I made my way through the back window and reached Rylee. She looked like my daughter. Throughout the entire ordeal, I felt as though I was with my own child.”

Lawson admits that positive outcomes are rare in his line of work, and he initially anticipated a more tragic outcome when he arrived at the scene.

He shares that he kept track of Vickry’s progress through mutual friends and eventually reached out to her parents.

“I’m just incredibly thankful for the East Side Fire Department, the Central Fire Department, and everyone who was present at the scene,” expressed Vickry’s mother, Deana Erdey, in an interview with UWK. “Looking back now, it’s truly astounding to see the dedication of all the first responders who were there to assist our children.”

Meaningful impact

Reuniting with Vickry is something Lawson doesn’t take for granted. It’s why after her prom night crash, her ‘thanks’ meant a lot to him and all first responders.

“It was a reaffirmation that we can indeed achieve positive outcomes,” said Lawson. “We don’t often witness positive outcomes in our line of work, nor do we frequently get the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives. I simply stayed by her side until we could safely extricate her. Sometimes, all it takes is holding someone’s hand. That’s precisely what I did-held her hand and monitored her vital signs.”

Charges in the crash

Vickry and her friends never made it to prom that night. They were on their way to the dance after having dinner when the crash happened.

Erick Melendez, 33, has been charged with two counts of vehicular negligent injuring and two counts of first-degree vehicular negligent injuring. Investigators state that Melendez was driving under the influence, with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit, when he crashed into the vehicle carrying the teenagers.

A booking photo was not provided due to Act No. 494, which places restrictions on mugshots released to the media for most offenses with exceptions for certain violent crimes.

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play to stay updated on any new developments.

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