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Retired fire chief helps save victim of falling tree.

Byline: Kim Ring

LEICESTER -- The enormous falling tree came down in slow motion as retired Leicester Fire Chief Jacob Menzigian watched through the windshield of his truck.

"It came down so nice and gently but Mr. Morris was right where it came down,'' he said. "It hit the wires and bounced back up ... I could see him, he was headed for the side of my truck so I goosed it.''

He also turned away to shield his face

When he turned back, he saw wire -- power lines, cable wires and telephone lines -- was down and wrapped around the van, which had hit the rear quarter of his Ford.

"I went over to him and I told him not to move,'' Mr. Menzigian said. "He was bleeding, he didn't say anything but I think he heard me. I was more interested in getting an ambulance and getting the power shut off.''

John T. Morris, 66, of Rochdale, was headed home from the bank where he'd made preparations to pay his income taxes when the tree fell on his minivan. He was pinned inside and had to wait about 30 minutes for power to be cut before firefighters could use a hydraulic tool

to cut him free from the wreckage, his daughter said.

He was taken to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center -- University Campus in Worcester and is in the intensive care unit.

His step-daughter, Kristi Gumpright, said he doesn't remember what happened, but the serious injuries he sustained will likely remind him for a long time.

On Tuesday night doctors were rebuilding his jaw during surgery that lasted several hours. He has painful broken ribs and was sedated, sleeping on and off before the operation.

"He wakes up and he mumbles, 'Where am I? Why am I here?''' she said.

He's there, she believes, in part because of Mr. Menzigian's actions.

The 85-year-old is still a firefighter at heart, and when he realized emergency personnel were on the other side of the downed tree with three young men who, though their car was damaged, were OK, he did the only thing he could think of.

"I crawled under the tree and I yelled to them that I needed the ambulance and the Jaws of Life,'' he said, adding that through the downed utility poles and heavy branches, they weren't able to see Mr. Morris' van.

Mr. Morris has asked about the van -- his ride to the part-time trucking jobthat he and his wife depend on to supplement their Social Security.

On Tuesday he asked if someone could get his golf clubs.

In addition to worrying about her father's physical recovery, Ms. Gumpright said she is very concerned about her parents' finances. Mr. Morris won't be back at work for a long time and,without a vehicle, going back at all will be tough. Her mother, who is disabled, doesn't drive and depends on her husband to help manage their household and provide for them

"He's the breadwinner,'' Ms. Gumpright said.

In the 24 hours after the accident, doctors have been trying to evaluate the many injuries Mr. Morris suffered.

"He's going to make it, which is the good news,'' Ms. Gumpright said, but her parents will need assistance.

To help, she started an online fund aising campaign that will be used to defray expenses while her father recovers. She set a goal of $5,000 and in 11 hours had raised $700 of that. She posted a photograph of her "Daddy'' lying bandaged in his hospital bed as she kissed him. There are a few photographs from the accident scene, as well.

She said she is grateful for the donations already made and said she can't think of anything else her parents will need aside from help with the bills and some money to put toward another vehicle.

Not lost on her is the reality that her father could have been killed.

Mr. Menzigian said he was surprised that Mr. Morris survived.

To donate to Mr. Menzigian's fund visit and search for Kristi Gumpright.

Contact Kim Ring at
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Ring, Kim
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 16, 2014
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