Childhood friend turned ‘hero’ honored for life-saving actions in Rock Hill

Man earns Piedmont Medical Center EMS award after accident

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 11, 2013 

— The full impact of help from a friend who saved his life nearly two months ago was realized Friday morning, said York Police Officer Lee McClellan.

Dustin Allmon – McClellan’s friend since childhood – sprang into “hero” mode on Nov. 27 after a 3,500-pound boat fell on top of McClellan in his driveway.

Piedmont Medical Center honored Allmon with their “EMS Hero Award” on Friday –making Allmon only the fifth community member to receive the recognition.

Robert White, with Piedmont’s EMS service, described Allmon as a “remarkably brave person.”

Standing next to White, McClellan had tears in his eyes Friday as the November accident was recounted to an audience at the Rock Hill hospital.

“It brought back everything ... as soon as he said ‘a day like today,’ ” McClellan said.

Nov. 27, 2012 was a day like Jan. 11, 2013 – rainy and foggy.

Allmon and McClellan were working on a boat trailer at McClellan’s home in Rock Hill.

“As they were working on the axles, one became very stubborn and didn’t want to turn loose,” White said Friday. “Officer McClellan climbs under the boat with his hammer to remove the axle. This is the moment that lives changed forever.”

Re-living the day the boat accident nearly claimed his life, McClellan said, reminded him that he needed to thank his friend again for saving his life.

“I was sitting here this morning getting ready,” he said. “I thought, ‘Have I even told Dustin thank you?’ I’m sure I have but I couldn’t remember it. So I was like, ‘Well, he’s definitely going to hear it today.’”

The two men have “been buddies for a long time,” he said, sharing a love of outdoors and their Christian faith.

Friday’s ceremony to honor Allmon, McClellan said, “just kind of brought it all back.”

“I remember the blocks crashing,” he said. “And then, of course, I did black out.”

McClellan, an officer with the York Police Department for just three months before the accident, was unconscious when a Piedmont EMS crew arrived on the scene.

Allmon was just an arm’s length away from the boat when it fell on McClellan.

The weight and pressure, White said, was bearing down on his chest, not allowing him to breathe.

“So in minutes – seconds – he could have died from what we call traumatic asphyxiation,” White said.

Allmon grabbed a jack nearby and quickly raised the boat off of McClellan. Had he left his friend under the weight of the boat to call 911 right away, White said, McClellan might have died.

“To know what (Allmon) did and to listen to people like Robert explain within minutes, just a couple more minutes, I wouldn’t be here ... it just hit home,” McClellan said.

“If I wasn’t here – I’ve got three beautiful young children and a wife I love dearly – just to know I wouldn’t be here.”

He gives credit to his friend, McClellan said, that he is still here.

Prayer and community support, too, he says, has pulled him through a long six weeks of recovery.

“There’s power in prayer, and I’ve had thousands of people praying,” he said. “The Lord’s really blessed me and healed me. He put Dustin there for a reason. He cranked up the jack and got it off of me enough to save my life.”

The November accident, Allmon said, has changed his life.

“It’s opened my eyes to a lot of different things,” Allmon said. “You just see life totally in a different aspect altogether. It just goes to show how fast something can happen.”

Like McClellan and his wife, Mary Beth, Allmon says the experience has brought him closer to God.

He didn’t realize, Allmon said, that his fast reaction was “such a big deal” until emergency workers explained that McClellan could have died with the pressure of the boat cutting off his air flow.

“Of course I wasn’t trying to be a hero,” Allmon said. “I was just looking at a guy that I was raised with.”

Allmon is the maintenance foreman at the Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mill. He works around jacks, lifting boats and vehicles all the time both for work and as a hobby.

He has basic first aid training, he said, but no experience as a first responder.

“I think I did what any man would have done. You can’t sit there and see a good friend that you love and care for go through what he was going through. And knowing he was in pain.”

Allmon and McClellan both have three young children.

Because of her husband’s recovery and inability to drive right now, Mary Beth McClellan says help from Lee’s aunt’s and cousins has helped her take care of her family.

The community support through fundraisers and prayer, she said, has pulled the couple through a scary time.

“If I could just put a big billboard up and just say thank you,” she said.

McClellan could be back at work with the York Police Department by the end of February, he said.

“I’m getting a little cabin fever because I can’t drive due to the medications I’m on,” he said. “So I’m having to rely on other people to drive me. And hitting little road bumps jostles everything and that hurts. But it’s getting better ... I just can’t wait to get back to work.”

Reluctant to call himself a hero, Allmon said his adrenaline was pumping when he saved his friend’s life. After the boat fell, he said, McClellan was unconscious within 20 seconds.

“A lot of times that can be the life and death matter,” Allmon said. “That can be the last few seconds of someone’s life.”

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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