Chico man was saved by Ridge chiropractor

by Melissa Daugherty - staff writer
July 23, 2004

PARADISE—Ridge chiropractor Brad Foster was back to work mid-week, despite suffering from mild second-degree burns to his hands after rescuing a Chico man from an exploding car last Saturday.

The 31-year-old father of three young children said he wouldn't have been able to live with himself if he hadn't tried to help 38-year-old Lyle Verry, who nearly burned to death when his truck was struck at a busy Yuba City intersection.

"I value human life," the Paradise resident said. "Even in my career, I try to help people who are suffering from pain."

Foster witnessed a stolen SUV run head-on into Verry's truck, which instantly exploded into flames. Within seconds, he rushed to the vehicle looking for any way to help its occupants.

Verry, he said, had managed to exit the truck through its passenger-side window, but was laying on the ground with his head just under the burning vehicle. He was unconscious and on fire as thick black smoke billowed out 20 feet in each direction.

Foster's next step, he said, was instinctual.

"I ran into the smoke and fire and pulled him out," he said. "I overcame common sense and reason to do that."

"This is a family in need," Now five to eight feet from the truck, Foster ripped off Verry's shirt and lay on top of him, patting out the flames on his face and upper torso. The gas tank on the vehicle exploded a few seconds later a blast that gave Foster a concussion.

"It just kind of went right through you," he said of the force of the explosion.   

With flames and smoke thickening, Foster dragged Verry another 20 feet from the fully-engulfed truck. He then checked the vehicle for any other passengers. Verry was alone.

Foster took a few days off from his ridge practice, but returned Wednesday with his hands bandaged and gloved. The chiropractor said he still has a bit of a headache and can't give a strong handshake, but is otherwise fine.

Strangely, this isn't the first time Foster has rescued someone from a burning vehicle. In 2001, he was driving north of Wheatland and pulled a woman from her car after it collided with a semi-truck. As it turns out, the mother-in-law of Foster's brother was best friends with the woman.

"It's a small world," Foster said.

Though he didn't know Verry, Foster said the two men have several things in common. Verry is the father of three young children, and lives just down the hill, in Chico.

An athlete, Foster is an avid cyclist, who, like his hero, Lance Armstrong, lives by the mantra "live strong." He competed and won the recent "Race to the Ridge" triathlon. He is team doctor for the Paradise Piranhas swim team, and was in Yuba City Saturday for a meet.

He was on his way to a pharmacy to pick up some supplies when he had to swerve out of the way of the stolen SUV, which was being pursued by police.

"I was about five feet from being hit and a second from being rear-ended," he said.

Verry was transported to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where he's undergone several skin graft surgeries for second- and third-degree burns.

Since the [crash], Foster has been in contact with Verry's wife and will be visiting the couple in Sacramento this weekend. Though still listed in critical condition, Verry is expected to pull through.

Yuba City police Lt. Bill Ollar said Foster's quick action saved Verry's life.

The fire, he said, was burning so intensely that other witnesses couldn't even look into the vehicle for other victims.

"And yet (Foster) put himself into the heat and pulled him away," Ollar said.

© Copyrighted article reprinted with permission.