An ambulance rushed to the scene, and three emergency responders from the West Thurston Regional Fire Authority took Storelee to a hospital. He had broken a hip.
The trio of firefighter EMTs spent the rest of the day racing to car accidents and other calamities. At about 5 p.m., as things calmed down, firefighter EMT Alexander Trautman looked at his two co-workers and asked whether they would be up for going back to Storelee’s house to finish his lawn.
“There was no hesitation from anybody,” said Trautman, who has worked for the West Thurston department, near Olympia, for about 10 years. “We talked to our lieutenant and captain, and they were 100 percent behind it.”
So he and fellow firefighter EMTs Miranda Panuska and Garrett Bromley headed back to the partially mowed lawn and spent about an hour mowing, sweeping and tidying up, Trautman said.
“We knew he’d be down for a while,” Trautman said. “We figured the least we could do was go back and help out.”
Storelee’s grandson Aiden Martin said his grandfather has lived alone since his grandmother passed away five years ago. He said the lawn is his grandfather’s “pride and joy of the house.”
Martin posted a photo of his grandfather on Twitter, as well as a photo of the firefighter EMTs, which was taken by neighbor Cheryl Jones. Martin wrote: “My granddad fell this morning while mowing the lawn and broke his hip. The EMT’s that took him to the hospital came back and finished his job for him.”
Trautman said he remembered Storelee from a call about a year ago when Storelee had fallen off a ladder.
“We were familiar with him,” Trautman said. “He’s a really, really nice guy, the kind of guy who would never ask for help in any way, shape or form.”
Trautman said he and his co-workers are encouraged to help people beyond rendering medical aid.
“We’ve done similar things before. We look at it like a family community. I’ve seen people with broken porches and replaced a couple of boards,” he said. “If we see someone in need, we can go help and buy them groceries, and the department will refund us our money.”
Martin said that, while in the hospital, his grandfather was somewhat confused because of the medication he was given, but that he was happy to learn his lawn had been mowed.
He added that his grandfather needed hip surgery after the fall and is doing physical therapy to help him start walking again.
Robert W. Scott, operations chief for the West Thurston Regional Fire Authority, said his department’s 33 staff and 20 volunteers “are empowered to feel part of the community.”
“They were compelled to go back and take care of the job he was doing,” Scott said about the firefighter lawn mowers. “They wanted to do the right thing.”
He added that two of the three seventh-graders who found Storelee after hearing him moaning in pain initially didn’t tell their parents about their good deed because they were afraid they would get in trouble. As it turns out, they were not where they were supposed to be.
Two of the boys — Colby Dunkin and Hayden Lewis — were to go straight to the Boys & Girls Club after school, but instead they decided to walk a third friend — Adam Dillon — home first, something they didn’t have their parents’ permission to do.
“Me and Colby were supposed to be going to the Boys & Girls Club, but we thought we would be a little sneaky and walk Adam home first,” said Hayden, 12.
As the boys walked by Storelee’s home, they heard him yelling “Help me,” so they walked inside his fence to check on him, Hayden said. At first Hayden hesitated to walk into Storelee’s yard.
“I decided I’m not going to run away,” Hayden said. “I’m going to help this old guy who is asking for help.”
Once Hayden saw Storelee on the ground, he realized he needed to get an ambulance, so he and Adam flagged down a car and asked the driver to call 911, he said.
Bridget Lewis, Hayden’s mother, said she didn’t find out about what her son had done until Monday, three days after it happened.
“Hayden is not in trouble because he helped save a man’s life,” Lewis said. “But we did have a talk about following rules.”
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