Saturday marked a bright spot in Jeff Branch’s coaching career when his son Jared won the middle school state championship wrestling match.
The proud family was on their way back to Louisville when police say Jeff lost control of his SUV, hitting a tractor trailer at the Frankfort exit.
“After hitting that tractor trailer, his it cut across the median, and caused a second collision with another tractor trailer that hit virtually head-on,” Pat Melton, from the Franklin Co. Sherriff’s Department, says.
The SUV burst into flames.
Jeff’s wife was in the car behind him and watched the whole scene unfold.
She rushed to help her husband and two sons trapped inside the burning car, but couldn’t get the doors open.
“Jeff, Derek, and Jared were unresponsive and the car was on fire. She said she threw some snow, but there wasn't enough snow to put it out and she grabbed Gatorade bottles out of their cooler and poured Gatorade on the fire and put the fire out,” Mark Hitchings, co-coach of the wrestling team says.
The jaws of life had to be used to open the vehicle. Jeff had to be airlifted to the hospital.
“None of us knew if Jeff was going to live through this. We knew he had been put on the helicopter. There had been no indications that he was responsive or frankly alive and it was one of the most heart wrenching moments of my life,” Hitchings says.
Jeff eventually gained consciousness but still suffers from several broken bones, broken ribs and other internal injuries.
His two sons Jared and Derek were treated and released.