"You will forever be my hero;" Lynchburg police officer saves Richmond couple from smoking car

Published: Jul. 11, 2019 at 5:47 PM EDT
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Phyllis and Michael Wessel sit in a conference room, hands clasped together at their sides. They have learned to hold onto each other, tight.

“I honestly thought I was going to die,” said Michael. “Her first words as I walked back were, ‘come here so I can touch you.’”

On June 8th the Richmond-area couple was driving along Route 460 near Dinwiddie. In an instant, everything changed.

"It happened so fast. We were fine, we were driving,” said Phyllis. “I don't know what happened."

"I don't know whether we hit a slick spot, we just don't know,” said Michael. “Just one moment we're cruising, the next moment we are sideways going 65."

Their car rolled several times. It stopped on its side. Both were stuck inside. Phyllis was hanging from her seat-belt.

"All I saw was white and I thought...am I dead?” said Phyllis.

"And then the next thing I remembered was ‘open the door, open the door! Your car is smoking!’” added Michael.

That voice was Officer James Kurtz with the Lynchburg Police Department. Only he was not on the job. He was on vacation with his family. Kurtz was driving directly behind the couple. He asked his wife to call 911, they pulled over and Kurtz ran towards the smoking car. He yelled to the couple to “open the door,” eventually getting them both out alive.

“It was a welcome, welcome sight,” said Phyllis. “Scream at me all you want. I'm alive. And I'm grateful."

The Wessels have since recovered, but still wondered about the man who jumped out of his car to save them.

"It gives me chills every time I think about it,” said Michael. “That a trained first responder is the guy behind us and stops and gets my bride out."

Little did they know, as we interviewed them in a hotel conference room, Officer Kurtz was waiting outside.

"You have no idea what your presence there that day meant to us,” Phyllis told the officer through tears.

The couple sat down and thanked the officer they call their ”hero.”

Kurtz said he was just doing his job and would never have driven by a scene like that.

“This vehicle had rolled four times. There was smoke, there was steam. And I just thought there’s people in there,” said Officer Kurtz. “Someone clearly needed help. So that’s what I was there to do.”

“I don't know how you view yourself from that day, but you will forever be my hero,” Phyllis told Kurtz. “You were just god-sent.”