Jim Mcwaters, left, Scott Richardson and Dan Rodriguez visit the crash site where they rescued a man from a burning vehicle off of Hyatt Prairie Road. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]

Roadside rescuers

If it hadn't been for construction workers who were leaving a job site near the Greensprings Monday evening, a young Klamath Falls man might not be alive today.

Scott Richardson and Jim McWaters, who both live in Roseburg and work for Bureau of Reclamation contractor Suulutaaq, were headed home from work on the Hyatt Lake Dam when they saw a 2005 Subaru sedan losing control and heading for trees.

By the time Richardson pulled over, the sedan had crashed between two trees and had caught fire. The flames spread rapidly. The sedan's driver, Zackary Komm, 18, screamed for help.  Richardson and McWaters said they knew they had to act fast.

"By the time I turned around it was already on fire," Richardson said.


About the time McWaters cut Komm out of the seatbelt that saved his life in the impact, machine operator Dan Rodriguez of Klamath Falls jumped in after pulling over when he saw Richardson's truck.

"I wasn't expecting to see a car on fire," Rodriguez said.

It took all three men to get Komm out of the car. McWaters described him as a "pretty big boy" — not overweight, but large-framed, muscular and hard to carry.

"It took all of us to get him out," McWaters said.

Richardson suffered third-degree burns on his hand because he reached behind Komm's back, which had caught fire. The deep burn was caused by a piece of melting plastic from the fire.

Because cell service was limited where the wreck happened, Richardson rushed to phone for help at a restaurant while McWaters and Rodriguez tended to Komm, who was unable to walk after the crash.  Komm remains hospitalized at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in fair condition, according to Asante spokeswoman Lauren Van Sickle.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office said Komm suffered two broken legs in the wreck, but Van Sickle couldn't release details about Komm's injuries.

While Richardson sought help, Rodriguez and McWaters carried Komm about 15 yards from the wreckage, which exploded with a "kaboom," according to McWaters. Komm had been on his way back from a hunting trip, and "a ton" of ammunition caught fire in the wreckage, according to one of the rescuers.

The workers' foreman, Joel Zeni, also a volunteer firefighter for Greensprings Rural Fire District, said that Komm is also lucky because a training event had brought fire crews nearby. The training event, set for 6 p.m., had just started.

"They were way faster than they would've ever been," Zeni said.

What should've been a day of celebration had a tinge of worry for Zeni. He was off work Monday because his wife was in labor, but Zeni said he listened closely to the rescue on the radio, concerned for his guys.

"I missed it, but I was listening the whole time," Zeni said. "Nobody drives on that road at night."

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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