Keystone ski patroller credited with saving James Melvin’s life
SILVERTHORNE – Rex Lint doesn’t consider himself a hero. But Jim Melvin begs to differ.
Lint drove onto the scene of Melvin’s March 23 car crash on Interstate 70 seconds after it happened, and Melvin believes the Keystone ski patroller was instrumental in saving his life.
“Rex Lint’s definitely the hero on this deal,” Melvin said Tuesday, speaking from his room at Englewood’s Craig Hospital. “He crawled in the back of my car, put a blanket on me, kept me awake. He pretty much saved me.”
Melvin, 37, is a lifelong Summit County resident who works as a mechanic for the town of Silverthorne and as a youth wrestling coach. His car collided with a state highway department front-end loader near Silver Plume about 3:30 a.m. late last month. Lint, on his way home to Summit County from a basketball game in Denver, said he was “about two seconds behind” Melvin and drove around a corner of the highway to see Melvin’s twisted car and the front-end loader.
The scene was eerily reminiscent of one Lint stumbled upon in 1992, when he was moving to Colorado from New Hampshire. Driving through Kansas in the middle of the night, his headlights picked up a horrible accident scene. A Ford Escort had crashed into a semitrailer, and the Escort’s two occupants had been tossed through the windshield. Lint stopped to render aid, but lacking medical expertise, he felt helpless. That night, he resolved to get emergency training. And last month, he put it to good use.
Now trained as an emergency medical technician, Lint pulled over onto the snowy shoulder of I-70 and helped the loader driver break out the back window of Melvin’s Eagle Talon. He wedged himself through it and stayed with the injured man for an hour, reassuring Melvin he would not die and helping him cope with the tidal wave of pain.
Lint supported Melvin’s head and applied pressure to his neck, which appeared to be bleeding.
“We stayed that way for an hour,” Lint said, until firefighters arrived, tore apart the car and extricated Melvin from it. “We talked. He was saying, “I’m going to die. Tell my family and my daughter I love them.’ I told him, “No, you’re not going to die.'” He kept closing his eyes, and so I kept shouting his name. He was conscious the whole time.
“Then he started going into shock. He was getting real cold, so I got a blanket out of the back of the car and put my ski hat on him.”
Lint could see that the left side of Melvin’s body was seriously damaged and that from the knees down, his legs were pinned. Melvin was screaming in pain throughout much of the time, but thankfully, he doesn’t remember that.
“I remember them banging and grinding on my car,” Melvin said. “I don’t remember any of the pain.”
After firefighters got Melvin out and put him into a waiting ambulance, Lint drove away, not telling anyone his name. But Melvin’s brother heard from other local residents that Lint might have been the mysterious man at the accident scene, and he called Lint to thank him.
Last week, Lint visited Melvin in the hospital, where he’s recovering from massive injuries on the left side of his body. When they met, Lint and Melvin realized they’d once been neighbors in Willowbrook. The two had spent many an afternoon chatting in their yards while Lint worked on his car and Melvin on his lawn.
Lint, who also runs a graphic design business, brushes off credit for his good deeds.
“Hopefully people would do for me what I did,” he said. “I was doing it to help out someone in need. The real heroes out there were those firefighters, the ones who do it every day.”
Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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