Woman credited with saving man's life after deadly Harnett County wreck

Monday, January 26, 2015
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A local woman is being called a "hero" for helping save a man's life after he was involved in a head-on collision.

HARNETT COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Cristie and David Mitchell were running late Sunday night. They usually leave their house around 9 p.m. to pick up a friend from work in Lillington.

On Sunday night, they left at 9:20 p.m. She believes that's why she, her husband and a Cameron man are alive today.

"My husband said, 'If we had left maybe a minute later, it could've been us,'" Cristie said. "But I look at it like this - God meant for me to be here at this time."

The Mitchells witnessed a fatal head-on collision off Highway 27 in Harnett County Sunday evening. The two-car accident happened just a few miles outside of Lillington, and shortly before 10 p.m. It ended with the death of 22-year-old Adam Chew, of Buies Creek, and serious injuries for 50-year-old Phillip Stiff, of Cameron.

Cristie said she saw the sedan driven by Chew in their rear-view mirror. They were both headed eastbound, and she described the driving as erratic.

"[He was] falling back, speeding up, going off the side of the roads, crossing into the other lane," said Cristie.

When David turned the curb, Cristie described hearing what sounded like "a bomb going off."

The Mitchells said Chew crossed into the westbound lane, hitting Stiff and his Verizon work truck head-on.

People began to stop, and the Mitchells went into action, making sure Stiff didn't fall out of the truck. He was already suffering from a broken leg, ankle, arm, and facial injuries from the airbag.

"I jumped out," she said. "I went to the gentleman in the truck first. I asked him questions that you should know right off the bat to make sure there was nothing wrong with his brain."

A woman living nearby called 911. As her husband and another man retrieved a fire extinguisher and blankets, Cristie said she headed to Chew's car. There was no pulse. She saw a baby seat in the back, and crawled through a window to make sure a child was not in the car. Chew was the only occupant, so she went back to Stiff's truck, wrapping him in blankets, and talking to him.

Cristie said she learned everything five years ago, as a student at Central Carolina Community College. In Robert Powell's class, they talked about having a fire extinguisher, blankets and a first aid kit in the car. The memory and the adrenaline kicked in at once.

"I braced his head," she remembered. "My husband put his hands under his arms...trying to make sure he stayed conscious and alert."

"The whole time trying to fight off people who were trying to take pictures of the gentleman who passed in the Sedan," she added, referring to a growing crowd of onlookers.

Stiff was able to call out his wife's cell number, and Cristie said she made the call, comforted her and told her to meet Stiff at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center where he was transported once EMS arrived.

"Mr. Phillip said I was his guardian angel," Cristie said. "He held my hand the entire time up until the point we put him in the ambulance."

Returning to the accident scene Monday was hard for Cristie.

"The fact that the young man had lost his life," she trailed off, looking at the site. "I saw the tragedy and that will take a while to get out of my brain."

But Cristie believes she was supposed to be late Sunday night.

"There was a purpose for me being here, Mr. Phillip was my purpose," she said.

Highway Patrol investigators have not yet said what factored into the crash.

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