Ontario Junior A player aids in rescue of unconscious soldier from burning vehicle

A haunting story in the Syracuse Post-Standard popped up earlier this week. A New York State National Guardsman named Timothy Neild crashed his Chevrolet pickup truck just outside Dewitt, NY Monday morning. His vehicle reportedly veered off the road and striking a concrete pillar supporting an overpass, before bursting out into flames.

From there, a group of five good samaritans worked to rescue the unconscious driver from the burning truck. One of the five men, as it turns out, was 20-year-old Kevin Shier of the Toronto Jr. A Patriots of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He was travelling with his father on a visit to an NCAA campus for an interview:

Shier, who was with his father, stopped at the scene after seeing smoke in the distance, despite the fact that he was on his way to one of the most important visits of his life.

“It’s pretty surreal to be honest,” said the Toronto native, “it didn’t really feel like it happened.

“We just kind of slowed down to see what it was. My dad asked if we should stop; then I said ‘yes’. You see people doing things like that on the news, but you never think it’s going to happen to you but obviously I’m glad we stopped and helped out.”

The door was locked from the inside, so the men had to work to pry the door open. Another Guardsman on the scene was able to cut through the unconscious driver's seatbelt with his knife, and held onto the victim's hand as they dragged him to safety. In true Hollywood fashion, the vehicle exploded about 30 seconds after they managed to get Neild to safety. One of the lawyers aiding in the rescue said he had been knocked down by the force of the heat. Per Shier, the driver was "white as a sheet" and that he had thought the man was dead. He was still alive when police and firefighters arrived, and was taken to Upstate University Hospital, where he remains in critical condition. He broke both his legs in the crash and has internal injuries.

The victim's father, Rick Neild, sent a letter to the editor of the Syracuse Post-Standard thanking the men involved in the rescue:

Upon my arrival at Upstate University Hospital, I was able to personally thank the two Guardsman who arrived at the scene and assisted in the rescue -- a classic case of the military code to not leave a man behind.

I would now like to thank all those involved. If it were not for any single one of your actions, this fine young man, husband and father of a 2-and-a-half year old daughter (and we also recently discovered his wife is pregnant with their second child) would have perished.

According to the letter, Neild had just recently returned from a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Shier scored a goal in his first OJHL since the incident, and hasn't tweeted specifically about the incident, simply thanking friends that heard about his role in the rescue. He's unhurt, although he said his gloves were singed by the flames, and was able to make his interview despite being a little muddy. An unforgettable experience, to say the least, and also a pretty good story for his interview.