John Duckworth shrugs at the notion he’s a hero.
All the TV and radio interviews, the flood of Facebook chatter, none of it swayed the Coventry Township man into thinking that he — and his trusty aluminum bat — did anything special.
“It was just the right thing to do,” he said Thursday from his Portage Lakes home.
The professionals who save lives every day are calling Duckworth a hero after he and a Seville man pulled an injured motorist from a burning Hummer H2 after it crashed early Thursday morning near U.S. 224 at South Main Street in Akron.
Min Nyi, 34, of Akron, was saved just before flames overtook his SUV.
Nyi was listed in serious condition Thursday night at Akron General Medical Center. Police said he could have died inside his Hummer if Duckworth and Chris Ford had not stopped to help.
“They put their lives aside to save the life of another. Their actions exemplify the true meaning of heroes,” Akron police Lt. Rick Edwards said.
Police said the 2007 Hummer H2 went off the right side of the exit about 2:30 a.m. It struck a guardrail before crashing into a tree, flipping on its side and eventually catching fire.
It was Duckworth, 37, who stopped first. He was on his way home after pulling a night shift at the Coca-Cola plant on Triplett Boulevard in Akron when he saw the crashed Hummer down an embankment, its hazard lights flashing, engine running and music blaring.
Duckworth rushed down. The Hummer was resting on the passenger side, and Nyi appeared OK, but obviously stuck. There were no flames.
“I banged on the roof and windshield and I saw some movement, and I asked him if he was OK. He nodded and gave me a thumbs-up,” Duckworth said.
A third man stopped and called 911. Duckworth began walking back up toward his car.
“Then I heard a pop,” he said. “I could see and hear [Ford] kicking the window and I could see the smoke. I remembered I had a bat in my car, and I was hoping it was still in there.”
By chance, the black-and-white aluminum softball bat was in the trunk of Duckworth’s Pontiac. A friend had borrowed the bat and returned it in the fall. Duckworth said he had put the bat in his car and forgot about it — at least until he needed it after hearing the popping noise.
“I grabbed the bat and ran down and that’s when I saw the flames coming from the hood,” he said. “The driver was screaming, so I started swinging. I wasn’t paying attention to the flames. I was just swinging.”
Duckworth estimates he took five or six mighty swings before breaking the windshield. He and Ford then reached through the shattered windshield, cutting their hands, to grab Nyi and pull him out. By this time, flames had spread and Akron paramedics arrived.
Duckworth doesn’t recall any explosion, but rescue workers said Nyi was pulled to safety just before his SUV became engulfed.
Ford and Duckworth were treated at the scene for several cuts that bloodied their hands. Ford could not be reached comment.
Nyi thanked the men over and over as they sat for treatment in the back of a rescue squad. He later was cited for driving under a DUI suspension and failing to control his vehicle.
Duckworth said he barely slept Thursday after arriving home. He was inundated with interview requests from local media. Friends dotted his Facebook page as news spread on the Internet.
He modestly brushed aside the attention and “hero” label.
“They’re all saying that, but I don’t know,” he said. “I guess I was just in the right place at the right time and helped a guy out. I felt it was the right thing to do.”
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.