Official hurt helping out at accident

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By Jenny Hartley

A county official hurt his toe in the line of duty on Tuesday.

It wasn’t a sheriff’s deputy or firefighter, whose jobs sometimes put them in danger. It was Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis.

Willis and county Planning Director Chris Karres were driving back from Indian Land on U.S. 521 about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. At the intersection of U.S. 521 and S.C. 9 Bypass at the Lancaster city limits, they came upon a wreck that had just happened.

They didn’t see the wreck occur, Karres said. But no emergency workers had arrived at the scene.

Willis wanted to turn around to see if they could help. He saw one of the cars, a Cadillac, rolling backward. The driver, perhaps dazed after the crash, had gotten out, and the car was not in park.

Willis said he was worried that the car would hit others stopped at the traffic light, go into the opposite lanes – or worse – roll down the ramp onto the bypass.

Willis jumped out of his car and ran to the rolling car and tried to put it in park from the outside. Unable to do so, he jumped into the driver’s seat of the car and got it to stop.

Sometime during those brief seconds, one of the Cadillac’s tires rolled over his big toe. But Willis doesn’t remember it happening.

“That’s the only thing it could have been,” he said. “Plus, I have a tread mark on my shoe.”

The toe was dislocated. He was taken by Lancaster Fire Chief Chris Nunnery to Springs Memorial Hospital and saw an orthopedist on Wednesday.

“That’s the first time this fat guy has run in three years,” Willis said, with a laugh.

Karres said it was amazing how fast Willis got to the rolling car.

“Everyone told me that was that policeman instinct, when he got out of the car,” Karres said. “It happened so fast. It was like a stunt man.”

Willis worked as a police officer and firefighter before moving up as a government official. He’s modest about Tuesday’s feat of speed.

“I didn’t want to see anyone get hurt,” he said. “It’s one of those things you don’t think about. Any government employee would turn around to see if they could help.”

Contact Jenny Hartley at 283-1151 or jhartley@thelancasternews.com