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Teen-Ager Becomes Hero Third Time With Rescue Of Man From Wreck

February 26, 1988

CONIFER, Colo. (AP) _ A 17-year-old student athlete became a hero for the third time in his life when he went to the aid of a man whose van had plunged into a canyon, giving the man his jacket and shirt to ward off hypothermia.

Duane Duffy was on his way home from a school club meeting in Colorado Springs on Tuesday night when he saw a strange light in the trees in the canyon 300 feet below the road.

″I knew it wasn’t the moon,″ Duffy said. ″Most people would drive right by, because if you didn’t know any better you wouldn’t have noticed it.″

But Duffy drives the road every day, so he stopped to investigate.

Peering over the precipice, he saw the headlights of a smashed van and heard a weak cry for help.

Tom Dize, 44, of Denver, had slipped off the road into the canyon while attempting a U-turn.

Duffy went off and called for help, then returned to climb down the nearly vertical dropoff. He found Dize in bad condition.

″I thought he was really getting close to hypothermia,″ or low body temperature, said Duffy. ″He’d been out there 15 to 20 minutes, sprawled in the snow, and it was really deep. He was shaking and shivering. He was all wet and white, and breathing heavily. It really freaked me out.″

″I knew I was going to die,″ Dize recalled from his hospital bed.

Duffy helped Dize walk to the road, then took off his jacket and shirt and wrapped the injured man in them and in blankets from his car. He waited with Dize until an ambulance arrived.

″If it hadn’t been for him, I might not have made it,″ said Dize, who was in satisfactory condition at St. Anthony Hospital Central in Denver, where he was recovering from internal injuries.

″He put the blankets on me, comforted me, stayed with me. I owe my life to him, really.″

Duffy’s father, Duane Duffy, said his son had rescued a brother and sister years earlier.

When he was 12, he saved his 10-year-old brother from drowning during a fishing trip. Two years ago, he treated his 3-year-old sister after she ate rat poison, making her drink milk to coat her stomach and calling paramedics.

″Like every teen, he’s rebellious,″ said the father. ″But being the oldest of seven children, he’s assumed a lot of leadership. You can criticize kids from day to day, get down on them, and you forget to look at the basic things. We’ve tried to teach the kids good values, and it looks like I’ve gotten some reward for that.″

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