A Pendleton man received an award for heroism in June 1967 after he saved a man from a burning car the previous November.
Kirk Leuhrs of Pendleton was working for Boeing Co. in Seattle in November of 1966 and was driving to work when he came upon a traffic accident that left one car in flames. No one had attempted to rescue the driver of the burning car, which had been burning for two minutes by the time Leuhrs pulled over.
Leuhrs tore open the door of the small sedan and found the driver, John Pitcher, also a Boeing employee, wedged between the two front seats, with his head in the back seat and his legs in the front. His clothes were on fire.
The flames from the burning car singed Leuhrs’ face and beard, and he shouted for help to extricate the man from the car. After removing Pitcher from the vehicle, Leuhrs laid him on the ground and patted out the flames on his clothes. While checking Pitcher for broken ribs and other injuries, and preparing to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, Pitcher began breathing on his own and the color returned to his face.
Leuhrs covered Pitcher with a blanket against shock and then continued on his way to work.
The rescue wasn’t covered by the media, and Pitcher recovered from the accident. But a mention of the event was written up in Boeing’s shop newsletter. Leuhrs was given a letter of commendation by the company.
After Leuhrs moved to Pendleton he was hired by the Hartford Insurance Group. The company awarded him the Hartford Heroism Award and an engraved plaque for his efforts to save his fellow employee.