Rison head football coach Clay Totty insists he’s not a hero.
Nearly a week after pulling his mother and two daughters from his mother’s car — less than a minute before flames began to consume it, Totty said he did what “anybody else would have.”
Totty said his mother Edith was driving near the Fordyce airport Saturday around noon when her Ford Escape left U.S. Highway 79, went down a ditch, hit the culvert of a crossroad, which ripped the gas tank, and went airborne for approximately 50 yards before coming to rest nose-down against a tree.
“I was disoriented,” Totty said after the car came to rest. “I heard everybody’s voice, so I knew everybody was alive.
“I got out and I thought the car was sitting normal.
“My airbag didn’t deploy, it was the only one that didn’t, and my door was the only accessible door.”
After unsuccessfully trying to get the driver’s door opened, Totty said he pulled his mother out through his door.
“She was pretty woozy,” he said.
His daughters — 12-year-old Jacey and 10-year-old Presley — were hanging from their seatbelts in the backseat.
“My youngest unfastened her’s and I caught her,” Totty said. “My oldest kind of fell and caught the passenger seat.”
After Totty got his family out of the car, which he estimates took two to three minutes, the four of them walked back to the highway. Totty said his mother wanted him to grab her cell phone from her purse, so he ran back to the car.
“She said, ‘We have to find the phone to call for help,’” Totty said. “So, I went back to the car and pulled out a root beer bottle, a jacket and a book.
“Everything from the trunk had fallen forward, so I couldn’t find her purse.”
Turns out it wouldn’t have mattered if he had.
“It turns out her cell phone wasn’t even in her purse,” Totty said. “She got home and saw she’d left the cell phone on her kitchen counter.”
Totty quickly gave searching for the purse and ran back to join his family, and not a moment too soon as the fuel, which had been leaking since the culvert hit, ignited soon after.
“The car wasn’t completely consumed,” Totty said. “But (the fire) got going less than a minute after we got out.”
Totty considers that to be a miracle.
“I’m thankful my door could open,” he said. “No one else could have been strong enough to help get Momma out.
“As far as being called a hero, I think I did what anyone else would have.
“I’m thankful my airbag didn’t go off. Because if I’d been woozy like Momma, I don’t know what would have happened.
“I’m just thankful I could help.”