MASON CITY, Iowa - A North Iowa man is being hailed a hero after after saving a driver from a burning vehicle.
Jeff Rench says his wife Donna was on her way into work, driving eastbound on County Road B20 just west of Mallard (Eisenhower) Avenue around 11:30 a.m. Monday, when she went off the road and landed in a ditch, presumably to avoid hitting a deer.
"I'm sure, looking at everything, the truck went end over end and landed on the passenger side."
The truck hit an embankment on a small driveway and landed on the passenger side in the north ditch, with the frame pushed in, and the impact likely sheering a fuel line.
Jason Hahn was driving in the opposite lane when he spotted Rench's 2005 Ford F-150 overturned and smoke coming out of the engine compartment. He acted quickly.
"I got close enough to hear somebody in there. I heard a gal screaming for help. You're committed, right? We need to go now."
Hahn worked to free Donna, trying to kick out the windshield, but was not successful. Using a shovel to break the glass, he needed to retrieve a pair of gloves to pull the windshield off. By this point, another motorist, Steve Fetketther, stopped to assist.
"I start opening up the windshield, and the oxygen created some big flames. The fire really took off, now I knew we only had seconds to get her out."
Using a Leatherman knife, Hahn was able to cut her seatbelt loose. However, as he crawled into the truck to pull her out, the situation grew even more dangerous, as the flames continued to grow and the smoke thickened. Hahn knew that time was running out.
"I told Steve I got her, and he must have had a hold on to my belt. He pulled myself, and I had a hold of her, and he pulled us out."
More help arrived on the scene, and got Donna to safety.
"Honestly, as soon as we got her out, the car was totally engulfed in flames."
Hahn credits Fetketther for being there to help in the process.
"He was a lot of help too, because I was getting wore out with all the smoke."
The fire was so intense, it melted windshield wiper blades, tires, part of the motor, and part of the truck's battery.
A day after the accident, Jeff and step-daughter Jennifer are looking to see what items are salvageable. Donna's purse, a pair of glasses inside the case, and even a burned out iPad were all found.
Jeff credits Hahn's work for saving his wife's life, and calls him a true hero.
"We need more people like him rather than drive by and film it or take pictures and post it on Facebook. Thank God he jumped in there."
"To be called a hero, that's cool, but I'm glad I got her out safe and glad everybody's good."
This isn't Hahn's first time saving someone's life; about three years ago, he saved a man who was choking by performing the heimlich maneuver.
Both Rench and Hahn were taken to MercyOne North Iowa for treatment of their injuries. Both have since been released.