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Life Saver

Keizer man rescues woman trapped in crashed car

Of the Keizertimes

Tuesday, Nov. 27 started out as a typical day for Keizer resident Dwayne Nowlin. It ended with him being hailed as a hero.

Nowlin, 52, who has been retired since 2012, has spent the last two years coaching football, basketball and baseball at Saint Paul High School.

With his investment in multiple athletic programs at the high school, Nowlin makes the trek out to St. Paul almost daily.

“I make that drive all the time,” Nowlin said. “It’s rare to have something out of the ordinary happen.”

But on Nowlin’s trip home from a St. Paul basketball practice, something bizarre did occur. And he was prepared to answer the call to action.

Salem resident Faye Martin, 77, was heading back to Salem from Cornelius when she came to a one-way stop at a T-intersection where River Road becomes French Prairie Road.

Because it was raining so hard on this particular day, Martin did not see the stop sign as she blew right through the intersection and went off the road.

Martin completely lost control of the vehicle as she ran into a large street sign that punctured the side of her window. The car continued wildly into a field before ramming into a tree.

Martin’s vehicle was pinned against a tree and she was suffering from a fibromyalgia attack by the time the car stopped, the combination meant she couldn’t get out of the vehicle on her own. And since the windshield was broken, cold rainwater continued to pour on Martin and she began to fear for her safety.

“I couldn’t believe that I had gotten myself into this predicament,” Martin said. “I just prayed that someone would find me because I could barely breathe.”

For nearly three hours, Martin helplessly sat in her car, trying to get anyone’s attention by pressing on her horn.

That action likely saved her life.

Nowlin was driving back to Keizer with his daughter, Rianna — who is a freshman at St. Paul High School —  around 6 p.m. when he heard the faint sound of a car horn.

“I could just hear something in the distance,” Nowlin said. “I rolled down the window and told my daughter to turn down the music and I could just barely hear the sound of a horn.”

“I didn’t think anything of

it at first, but for some reason, I just felt like I needed to stop. So I pulled off the side of the road and I could see a tiny red light way off in the distance.”

Nowlin knew that something was wrong, so he pulled his car over and set out on foot to go investigate the situation.

As he got closer to the sound, Nowlin became puzzled when the honking stopped all of a sudden and the red light disappeared.

After pausing for a moment, Nowlin then heard the faint sound of a woman’s crying voice.

“I almost went back to my car. But when I heard the voice, I knew I had to keep trudging through the mud,” Nowlin said. “As I got closer, I started to hear crying. It wasn’t long after that when I saw the white car.”

When Nowlin approached the vehicle, he saw Martin there and immediately called 911.

At this point, Martin was going in-and-out of consciousness. So Nowlin pinched her arm to try and keep her awake. It took 30 minutes for the ambulance to get to the car and Nowlin didn’t leave Martin’s side the entire time.

“I can’t quite remember everything, but I remember when (Nowlin) touched my hand it comforted me. I knew that their was a higher power involved,” Martin said. “I just thank God that he took a second to listen and follow his instinct.”

As it turned out, the reason that Martin’s lights went out was because her battery had died just moments before Nowlin got to the crash site.

“The paramedics told me that if I hadn’t have found (Martin), she likely wouldn’t have been found until the next morning and they didn’t know if she would have made it that long,” Nowlin said. “The car was freezing cold and she was soaking wet.”

After the paramedics removed Martin from the vehicle, she was then rushed to the Salem Hospital. Nowlin took his daughter home and then went to visit Martin in the emergency room to make sure everything was okay.

Nowlin stayed with Martin at the hospital until members of her family showed up.

The following day, Nowlin got a Facebook message from Martin’s daughter, Melody Burke, thanking him for his heroic efforts.

“I just want everyone who is reading this to know that there still are good people out in this world,” Burke said.

“We will never forget (Nowlin’s) heroic efforts that night and we hope that as soon as (my) mom is better, we can all go have lunch together and get to know each other on a better basis.”

Nowlin didn’t give much thought to his good deed in the moment, but was happy that Burke had connected with him to show her appreciation.

“It meant a lot that (Burke) and (Martin) found me and gave me a call and told me how thankful they were for what I had done,” Nowlin said.

Although Martin suffered some bad bruises to her neck and chest, she had no other serious injuries and was released from the hospital the following day.

Nowlin and Martin haven’t re-connected in person yet, but when they do, it will be a celebratory time.

“I just love that man,” Martin said. “I’m going to take him out for the biggest steak he’s ever had.”