COLUMBUS — Trooper Jason Phillips and the Ohio State Highway Patrol honored those that helped rescue him from his vehicle on June 27, after he was involved in a serious automobile accident.
Phillips, 23, of Ashville, was dispatched to Interstate 71 following reports of an impaired driver. While investigating, Phillips’s patrol vehicle was struck by a wrong-way driver on I-71 in Morrow County near Mount Gilead.
Good samaritans removed Philips from his patrol car before it burst into flames. They, along with first responders and medical personnel, were recognized for likely saving his life.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol recognized Harold Heller, Kojo Tsiboe, Jorge Jimenez, John Yeichner, Kenneth Rosser, Silva Moses, Jonathan Nava, The Ohio State University Medical Center, the Survival Flight Crew and Morrow County Emergency Medical Services for their efforts.
Following the ceremony, Phillips and his parents, Jason Sr. and Tina, gave an update on how the family has been doing, including Phillips’ ahead of schedule progress as he recovers from severe injury.
Phillips said it felt good and emotional to be at the Patrol Training Academy where he graduated late last year.
“The last time I was here I was graduating,” he said.
Phillips thanked everyone who has shown him support, through his path to recovery.
“Thank you for caring about me, I know it’s just a card but it still makes a difference,” Phillips commented.
Tina said they’ve been told about children as young as three years old thinking about the Trooper and have received too many cards and pictures to hang.
Jason Sr. said they’ve received letters from all over the world including Alaska and Finland.
“It’s overwhelming,” Tina said. “He looks forward to it. He looks for the mail every day and it puts a smile on his face. It helps all of us to feel the love and support of the community and knowing that they care.”
Phillips has issues with memory, speech and strength. He can walk and stand with assistance, using a walker with a seat. He was pushed by his father going into the ceremony. He spent two months in the hospital, returning home Aug. 27, two months after the crash.
“I have to work on my speech, learn to walk again and my memory,” the Trooper stated.
The road ahead will include physical therapy, which will include some at home, to work on his strength so he can eventually be strong enough to hopefully one day be on the road again.
“He’s a fighter,” Tina said. “He’ll get on a Bowflex and whatever other equipment they let him be on. He’ll keep pushing and they make him slow down and take a break. He’s determined to get where he needs to go.”
That fighting spirit has helped Phillips progress faster than originally believed. Jason Sr. said the family was told it would be a year before he would walk without assistance and many months to feed himself; however, those are accomplishments he’s already achieved.
“He was feeding himself the day he was discharged and they said that wouldn’t happen for months,” Jason Sr. remarked.
Jason Sr. said the event has brought the family closer together and closer in their faith.
“In the beginning that’s all we had,” he added. “It was faith that God was going to do the work and [Phillips] was going to pull through. Five months seems like a long time but it also feels like it was yesterday. It’s been a journey. If it wasn’t for faith, I’m sure we wouldn’t be here.”
The family has kept in touch with a couple of those who helped rescue Phillips and are very thankful.
“They could have kept on going but they didn’t,” Jason Sr. said. “They took the time and risked their own lives. It’s amazing.”
Tina said she was worried that Phillips could be shot in the line of duty and not what happened instead.
“This was something that took us by surprise,” she said. “He has a love to be a trooper and we backed him up on that and we still back him up on that. If he could get in that car today he’d still get in it.”
“It was something he always wanted to do,” Jason Sr. added. “We knew the dangers. You don’t think collision or wrong-way driver.”
Phillips and his parents indicated that once he’s strong enough and physically able, he’d like to get back to being a trooper.