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Blazers’ O’Neal rescued after hit and run

December 2, 1997

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Jermaine O’Neal of the Trail Blazers would like to thank the man who got him out of his car after a hit-and-run accident last week, but the man is nowhere to be found.

``My mom said the guy was an angel. It makes you wonder,″ O’Neal said. ``Nobody else but me saw him, and when I turned around, he was gone.″

O’Neal’s mother, Angela Ocean, is certain.

``It was an angel; that’s why they can’t find him,″ she said Sunday from her home in Columbia, S.C. ``I always ask God to take care of my children, and he does.″

O’Neal found himself trapped in his Lexus after another vehicle knocked it into a ditch about 1:30 a.m. Thursday near his home in west Portland.

O’Neal was returning from Portland International Airport after a game in Minneapolis. He was treated for a bruised left shoulder and a bruised shin and given six stitches for a cut near his left eye.

The driver of the other car, Brian Christopher Wolfe, 25, of Canby, was arrested about a half-hour after the accident. He will be charged with hit and run, assault and reckless driving, the Washington County sheriff’s office said. Investigators said Wolfe ran away, but left a wallet in his GMC Yukon utility truck.

Minutes later, a deputy was dispatched to a fight nearby. There the deputy found Wolfe and Frank Rodela, 35, who lives near the accident site.

Rodela had chased Wolfe, wrestled him to the ground and screamed for help. Rodela said Sunday he had no idea the hit-and-run victim was O’Neal.

``It was Jermaine O’Neal? The kid? The 19-year-old kid? No way,″ Rodela said.

Rodela did not see the accident. The sheriff’s department reported no other witnesses.

O’Neal gave the following account:

``The truck swerved out of control and was going really fast toward me. I started to try to turn out of the way. But he hit me and knocked my car into a ditch.

``My car was leaning on the passenger side. I was stuck in there, that’s what was real scary. My car was smoking a lot, and you see so many things on TV about cars blowing up after being in an accident.

``I was just praying to God that I would survive. I thought I was hurt real bad. There were cuts on my face, my hands were bleeding, and my lip was busted. The air bag was in my face, and the whole driver’s side was caved in. I tried to open my door, but it wouldn’t open, and I couldn’t move my legs.″

Then, suddenly, O’Neal was freed.

``I looked up, and someone was walking up to the car,″ O’Neal said. ``He got me out somehow, set me on the ground and just walked away, I guess. It was the funniest thing. I didn’t have a chance to say thank you. I didn’t even get a good look at his face, because I was kind of dizzy.″

Ocean said she knows God intervened.

``Jermaine’s car was almost demolished. We’re just so blessed that he’s alive. It’s a miracle. It had to have been God. Jermaine said a big man opened the car door and pulled him up. I know it was God.″

O’Neal just wants to say thanks: ``I really want to meet him.″

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