Things could have played out differently for a Bishop Ready High School junior three days after Christmas.
But his mother, Lori Frye of Galloway, doesn’t think about that.
Instead, she thinks about her family’s good fortune – that her 17-year-old son Matthew’s wrecked Jeep Grand Cherokee was noticed probably less than hour after his serious accident by a Columbia Gas of Ohio employee who drives hundreds miles every week throughout central Ohio to visit work sites and customers.
“I’d love to thank that man a million times over – I think he saved my son’s life,” Frye said about 63-year-old Jack Speelman, a field-operations leader for Columbia Gas who lives in Franklin Township in western Franklin County.
Not long after 2 p.m. Dec. 28, Speelman was driving on rural Johnson Road between Norton and Big Run South roads – near the far western border of Columbus and Bolton Field – when he spotted Matthew Frye’s Jeep behind a stand of trees, about 25 feet off the road.
His first thought was that it might be an abandoned vehicle, “but something just didn’t seem right,” Speelman said.
Speelman stopped and approached the Jeep, quickly realizing the vehicle was occupied when Matthew Frye raised his hand.
Speelman called 911 and flagged down another motorist, Tiffany Evans, 39, who comforted the teenager while Speelman continued to speak with the 911 operator.
It was not clear how long Matthew Frye had been pinned inside the Jeep Cherokee, but Speelman thought it had to be at least an hour.
“I’ve come across (and reported) quite a few accidents (before police and medics arrive) but this one was different,” Speelman said.
The aftermath of accidents usually includes “steam and fluids running everywhere,” he said, but the Jeep’s engine was cold and it appeared blood on the teenager’s face had dried.
Evans was on a shopping trip and had not traveled far from her residence when Speelman flagged her down, she said.
“(Speelman) waved his hat at me to get me to stop,” Evans said.
In the drama of the moment, Speelman could not recall the name of the rural road on which he was standing, so he asked Evans.
While Speelman continued speaking to 911 operators, Evans opened the passenger-side door. The driver’s-side door was too badly damaged to open.
“He told me his mother’s telephone number and I called (Lori Frye),” Evans said.
Evans told Lori Frye, who was at work, that her son was being transported to Nationwide Children’s Hospital by Pleasant Township medics, who had responded to the 911 call with Franklin County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
“I can’t thank everyone enough,” Lori Frye said.
She said the family was “so lucky that a wonderful man was there or there might have been a different outcome,” and she was grateful Evans was there to tell her what was happening with her son.
Matthew Frye spent three days at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Lori Frye said.
He was discharged Dec. 30 and is recovering with the help of his maternal aunt, who is a nurse, she said.
“He sustained a severe concussion and is still wearing a neck brace,” Lori Frye said Jan. 4. “It will probably take about a month, but he will fully recover.”
Matthew Frye said he doesn’t remember much about the accident except that the tires of his Jeep touched the shoulder of the road, “and then I saw a lot of dirt and a tree.”
According to the accident report from the Columbus Division of Police, Matthew Frye was driving east on Johnson Road, about a mile west of Big Run South Road, and struck a tree after he drove off the south side of Johnson Road. He was cited for failure to control and not wearing a seat belt, the report said.
The report noted the crash was reported at 2:08 p.m, and first responders were dispatched at 2:18 p.m. and arrived at 2: 35 p.m.
Matthew Frye said a lot about the incident is “blurry,” and he believes he was unconscious after the accident until about 10 minutes before Speelman stopped to help.
“When my brother was going through the car later, he found a watch that has a broken face. It had stopped at 1:17 p.m.,” Matthew Frye said, indicating the likely time of the accident that Speelman had estimated.
Lori Frye said she spoke with her son at 11:45 a.m. and knew he had planned a trip to Lowe’s to copy a key and run other errands.
But he chose to visit a friend first, he said, and was en route there when the accident occurred.
The accident scene was about 2 miles south of the family’s Galloway residence.
“We’re so grateful,” said Lori Frye, who with her husband, Bill, an older son, Nick, 25, of Hilliard, and other family members went to the hospital to console Matthew. “It took a whole group of people but it all worked out. We are lucky.”