Father who fainted at the wheel thankful for quick actions of 13-year-old son

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A father is thankful for the quick thinking of his13-year-old son, who grabbed the steering wheel of the van after he fainted.

Damon and Bob Spaeth were on State Road 67 in Chesterfield Saturday afternoon on their way back from a soccer match. The father and son had stopped at a fast food restaurant to eat lunch. After they ate, they got back on the road. It was around 3:30 p.m.

“(I) got my tea. (I) took a sip like everybody normally does. It got stuck in the wrong pipe. I guess I remember coughing and just not being able to catch my breath,” Bob Spaeth said.

He passed out. The van veered into the wrong lane—right into oncoming traffic. A McCordsville fire engine was headed back to its station. The vehicles were on a collision course.

“When I saw the fire engine my mind just basically went blank,” Damon Spaeth said. “It was just kind of instinctive. It’s just…I saw we were about to get hit and as my health teacher would probably say it’s self-preservation,” Damon Spaeth said.

Bob Spaeth said an EMT told him he experienced vasovagal syncope, which caused him to faint.

“‘(I said) Dad, are you okay? Dad, are you okay?’ (I said it) repeatedly and then, when he slumped over in my mind it was kind of like, ‘Great’. This isn’t going to be good,’” Damon Spaeth said.

The teenager grabbed the steering wheel.

“I just remembered I reached over my right (and) kind of grabbed it. (I) jerked it as hard as I could. We still hit the fire truck though. They were even pulled over, trying to get over,” Damon Spaeth said.

Bob Spaeth remembered hearing the van scraping against something. He’s been out for about 30 seconds.

“There was a second car coming (and) that was scary. I swerved out of that one and then the car kind of went and died on the side of the road,” Damon Spaeth said.

Damon Spaeth doesn’t consider himself a hero. His father has another opinion on the matter.

“(I am) very grateful. I mean, he is my hero,” Bob Spaeth said.

The family made a pact: the driver will not eat or drink something until the car has stopped.

The fire engine sustained minor damage and will need some repairs. It’s unclear how long that could take.

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