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'A wonderful story of hope': Firefighter, bystanders save 3-year-old trapped under car at Walmart

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By Vicky Gits

After saving the life of 3-year-old Joshua Johnson in the Walmart parking lot Saturday, Evergreen volunteer firefighter Scott Martin was back on the job and coping pretty well by Tuesday morning.

“As tragic as the incident was, the fact that he is still alive is such a wonderful story of hope. The news is always so doom and gloom,” Martin said.

Martin’s heroic quick thinking and crisis expertise turned a near fatality into a miracle lifesaving opportunity, as bystanders joined forces to lift the car and free the boy.

A 10-year veteran of the Evergreen fire department, Martin, 38, works as a paramedic for the West Metro Fire Protection District in Lakewood. He has lived in Evergreen for 12 years.

The accident captured the attention of the Denver area and made the national news.

“The event was exciting, and I don’t mean in a good way,” Martin told the Canyon Courier. “There was a lot of stuff going on. The day was pretty traumatic. The good news is, his condition is stabilizing.”

Martin attributes at least part of the success of the rescue to his basic firefighter training and years of experience as a volunteer taking care of people hurt in traffic accidents.

Martin was walking into Walmart with his wife, Jennifer, to buy Christmas presents. They saw a grandmother with two kids and a car driving up behind them at a normal speed looking for a parking space.

“It was nothing out of the ordinary. I blinked for a second, and then I heard a noise and a car pulled into a space. At first I didn’t truly believe the boy was hit, but the grandmother was screaming,” Martin said.

“(The driver) had no idea. She was still behind the wheel and was unaware anything had happened,” said Martin, who told her to turn off the engine, put the vehicle in park and get out. “I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to move anymore. … People started saying, ‘There’s a child!’ ”

“I crawled under, and he was trapped. At that point some bystanders were filtering up. The parking lot was packed. I turned and looked and grabbed three or four guys. I didn’t think it was going to work. … One, two, three, and it just tipped over like it was cardboard.”

Martin said he thought it was amazing that nobody stuck around for a thank-you. “They just let the car down, and everybody disappeared. They just faded back into nowhere. If I could only thank the bystanders — they didn’t have to do anything, but they were willing to put themselves into a horrific situation.”

Evergreen Fire/Rescue received the 911 call at 1:17 p.m., said Fire Chief Garry DeJong. In addition to the chief, a total of 16 Evergreen firefighters and two paramedics responded.

Martin used his radio to call in the helicopter and directed it to go straight to Children’s Hospital, which he is authorized to do as a firefighter. St. Anthony Flight For Life landed at 1:35, DeJong said.

Martin was able to reposition the boy’s airway using a “jaw thrust” and kept his neck and spine in line until the ambulance arrived with a backboard.

Once the boy’s pulse returned and he started to regain consciousness, the feisty toddler started to fight off the paramedics.

Martin had high praise for the initially distraught grandmother. “She was a huge help by talking to him and comforting him. She was rock solid. She did a great job when it was really needed,” Martin said.

He also gave generous kudos to Evergreen Fire/Rescue training, which he called “second to none.”

“We are trained how to react to crazy situations like this. It’s not just anatomy and physiology but how to deal with the whole scene and managing all the resources, calling for personnel, making sure the scene was safe.

“I have to give many kudos to the firefighters and the paramedic crew on the ambulance and the helicopter flight crew. It was really a group effort,” Martin said.

Trooper Ryan Sullivan, a spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol, said there was surveillance video at the store and that the incident was under investigation.

Reports said it looked to witnesses like the boy had broken away from his grandmother’s grip, run a short distance and bent down as if to pick up something when he was hit.

Contact Vicky Gits at vicky@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Check www.CanyonCourier.com for updates.