Loehr, Cripe honored
Webster County men saved Paul Ross from burning car
DES MOINES — While others stood by and watched as an SUV with occupants caught fire in a ditch near Coalville, Greg Loehr, of Callender, and Ryan Cripe, of Fort Dodge, risked their lives to rescue a man from the burning vehicle.
“These guys went above and beyond,” said Webster County Sheriff’s Deputy Amy Stringer, who helped investigate the Jan. 12, 2019, crash. “The vehicle was on fire — pieces of the burning vehicle were actually dripping on them as they were pulling the man out. He would not be here today if it was not for them.”
The two Webster County residents were honored Tuesday at the State Capitol with Governor’s Lifesaving with Valor awards, which Stringer said is the highest honor for the lifesaving awards.
Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens presented the awards.
On the night of the crash, which occurred at about 5 p.m., Loehr said he was driving to a rifle shooting league with his wife and niece.
The crash happened on a curving section of Webster County Road P59 between U.S. Highway 20 and Quaill Avenue.
“We came around the corner and saw a car with a fire underneath of it and people standing on the road,” Loehr said. “I walked up and asked if there was anyone in the car and no one was doing anything because they were afraid it was going to blow up. Well, I went out to my truck and grabbed the hitch pin off the back of my truck and started trying to bust the window to try and get the guy out.”
Not long after Loehr was on scene, Cripe arrived to help. He had just dropped his daughter off at a friend’s house near Lehigh.
“As I came up there, they were working on trying to bust out the driver’s side rear window in attempt to get driver’s side door open,” Cripe said. “I didn’t know if there was a child in there or what.”
A man, later identified as Paul Ross, of Fort Dodge, was sitting in the driver’s seat. His wife, Sheila Ross, was in the passenger seat.
The Ross vehicle had slid sideways on an ice covered roadway, according to crash reports. The vehicle was struck broadside by another vehicle and came to rest in a ditch on the east side of the road.
Loehr, an employee of Decker Truck Line Inc., and Cripe, an employee at MidAmerican Energy Co. — Wind Division, were ultimately able to gain entrance to the vehicle.
“We had to cut his seat belt,” Loehr said. “Which wasn’t easy.”
Together, Loehr and Cripe pulled Paul Ross, who was incapacitated, from the vehicle.
“We did what we had to to get him out,” Loehr said. “He was a pretty big guy. It was something you never really prepare for. You see someone in trouble and you just hope somebody would be there for you.”
The men also tried desperately to help Sheila Ross, who died in the crash.
But they were unable to free her.
“Life can change in an instant,” Cripe said. “Life is way too short.”
Cripe said his advice is “to be of value when you can” and “follow your intuition.”
Tanya Ross, the daughter of Paul Ross, is grateful for the efforts of Loehr and Cripe.
“I couldn’t have asked for better people to be there at the time of when it was needed,” Tanya Ross, of Waukee, said. “They are my dad’s angels. My family’s angels. I wouldn’t have my dad here if it wasn’t for them. I will be forever grateful for it and I know my dad is, too.”