Couple injured in rollover crash reunites with Boise football players who saved them
After making national headlines for rescuing two people in an overturned vehicle Tuesday night, the Boise Black Knights wanted to see that the couple they helped on a Oregon highway was doing OK.
The Black Knights, a team of mostly 13- and 14-year-old tackle football players, lifted the overturned car to help free the trapped couple after coming upon the accident.
The couple injured in the crash, Alan and Margaret Hardman, both 65, of Winnemucca, Nevada, suffered some broken bones, cuts and scrapes, but are expected to recover.
“I'll tell you what — I don’t know how we would have done it without them," Alan Hardman told the Statesman. "They didn’t even hesitate."
The team met with the family Thursday evening at their daughter's home in Meridian. The players, holding flowers, cookies and cards in hand, were overwhelmed with emotion; they hadn't seen the Hardmans since they were taken away in an ambulance at the scene.
The team also presented the couple with a signed jersey and football.
"(We wanted to see them) because they were OK. They survived," Atonio Fifita, a Black Knights player, said. "We just wanted to see them better than they were before."
While driving back from winning the championship at the Bay Area Spring Football League Tournament of Champions in San Jose, the youth football team witnessed a rollover crash in front of one of the team's vans on U.S. 95 in Oregon just south of Jordan Valley.
The responding agency, the Malheur County Sheriff's Office, said the single-vehicle crash was likely caused due to high winds. Alan Hardman said he was asleep when the commotion started.
The Hardmans were on their way to the Boise area from Nevada because of a medical procedure for Alan. When he awoke, his wife, who was driving, had overcorrected and lost control of the vehicle. Alan Hardman said he initially passed out from the accident but heard some "young voices" trying to help.
Orlando Clay, a player's father, was driving the van immediately behind the crash. Clay said he got out of the van and checked the scene to make sure it wasn't overly gruesome before telling the boys, a group of six offensive linemen, to come out to help.
At first Clay just thought the SUV, a red Land Rover, had driven off the road. It took the dust to settle to know how bad the situation was.
"We just saw basically dust fly up. We were probably 50 to 100 meters back," Clay said. "You could see that they had flipped.”
Clay said they were able to rescue the man who was trapped with relative ease. The woman, who remained conscious during the ordeal, was stuck. At first glance, the players and coaches weren't sure how much they could help.
Clay and the linemen tried to push the car but were unable to lift it enough to help her get free. About 30 minutes later a second van holding 12 more players showed up, and that allowed the group to rescue the woman, Clay said.
“We literally thought there was nothing we could do. It looked like she was crushed," said Clay, who cut the woman's seat belt. "It was surreal. (When she was free), it was a bunch of hugs.”
The team was gone by the time people from the Sheriff's Office arrived, Malheur County Undersheriff Travis Johnson told the Statesman. Because of car trouble, a deputy was unable to reach the crash until an hour after the initial call.
"By the time our deputy got there, we didn't even know about it," Johnson said.
The Black Knights just finished an 11-0 season. They were the champions of the Rocky Mountain Youth Football League, the local American Youth Football tackle football affiliate. They made their way to the BASFL's Tournament of Champions and defeated the San Jose Hit Squad 34-6.
But Tuesday's rescue was more valuable than any games or practices.
"It just felt amazing that we could do what we did because I don't want to imagine what would happen if we were not there to help," said Regan Magill, a player on the team who took the viral video carried by news outlets nationwide.
After completing the rescue mission, head coach Rudy Jackson said the team acted as if nothing had happened.
"I'm more than proud. I'm at a loss for words," Jackson said. "They got out of the car like they were supposed to do that ... it's a great bunch of kids."
Johnson said the team's actions were nothing short of a miracle.
“I tell people all the time, when it's your time to go, it's your time to go. And when it's not, something good is going to happen," Johnson said. "It's a neat story."
Alan Hardman said earlier Thursday evening he had been unaware the story of his rescue had garnered national attention. He did, however, think it deserved to because of his rescuers.
“It’s a good story," he said. "It's good to see there are good people.”
On Thursday, team members did interviews with "Good Morning America" and their story was shared on media sites all over the country. Coach Rudy Jackson said his phone had been ringing nonstop.
He was perfectly OK with the attention his players were receiving.
"We had to stop and become heroes. It was just a little adversity," Jackson said. "It's almost an unreal story."