FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – As he felt blood soak his shirt and nearly two tons tilt onto his chest, a Cumberland County man expected to die.
“I thought I’d never live another day to see my wife and kids,” Darryl Schraeder said. “I’m just thankful that my kids didn’t have to see a splattered mess out there.”
Schraeder’s neighbors rushed to his rescue after his wife ran to the road to cry for help.
He decided shortly before midnight on July 20 to work on his Dodge Caravan’s water pump.
Schraeder served as a mechanic in the Air Force, but said he made the mistake of using the van’s jack as he removed one wheel and crawled underneath for the repair.
He pulled on a bolt and the corner of the van dropped onto him.
“The worst pain you could imagine. It kind of folded my shoulder blades together in the back where it just kept squishing me. It protruded my chest out in the front. There was just no movement, no escaping,” Schraeder said.
His family heard the thud but didn’t realize what happened. One of his teenage daughters walked into the garage and saw her father’s leg sticking out from beneath the van.
Kim Schraeder called 911 but also sought immediate assistance nearby. The family only knows a couple of their neighbors after moving in last month. Kim said the person she hoped could help was not home, but a man two doors down and across the street heard her screams.
That neighbor, Jerel McGeachy, is a Spring Lake police officer.
“I thought I was dreaming, but I heard female voices and I wasn’t sure if I was in a daze or a dream, or what was actually going on, and that’s when I came outside,” McGeachy said.
“I saw three women running across the street, just banging on doors. Screaming. Crying. Yelling.”
The off-duty officer said he thought someone was being assaulted so he raced in to help, but found what he needed to pull off the victim was a van. McGeachy grabbed his 3.5-ton jack and other neighbors brought their tools in a joint effort to lift the 3,600 pound vehicle.
McGeachy had the idea to use an ironing board as a backboard to slide Schraeder out from under the van. The officer tried to keep the veteran from losing consciousness, and asked Schraeder about his service in an effort to keep him talking.
“I noticed his beard and white hair, and I said ‘hey you’re Santa Claus’. He’s like ‘I get that a lot’, so I said ‘well you’ve got to keep talking to me because if you don’t, that means the kids are not going to get their gifts for Christmas,'” McGeachy said.
Firefighters and medics eventually arrived, and the police officer headed home.
“Once they had him on the stretcher, my main focus was going back to bed so I could get ready for work the next day,” he said.
McGeachy said he was being a neighbor, not a cop, but his actions match his mindset of helping people whenever he can. He said the other neighbors also deserve credit for their efforts. However, he plans to maintain a friendship with Schraeder through weekly visit.
Schraeder wants to take McGeachy fishing. The veteran doesn’t have a watercraft, but hopes to soon be able to find a cheap paddle boat.