Arthur Kenneth Ruebel, 48, veterinarian, saved Bernell Mertens, 17, schoolboy, and five others and attempted to save Wendell Mertens, 13, schoolboy, from burning, Orleans, Iowa, October 2, 1958. When Bernell, who was driving an automobile containing Wendell and five other boys and girls, applied the brakes as the vehicle entered a sharp curve at high speed, the sedan skidded off the road, overturned on its side, and crashed against a large tree, which became wedged in the top of the automobile. All seven occupants were injured and lost consciousness; and flames broke out under the bottom of the front of the vehicle as it lay on its side, Ruebel, who was recovering from a recent hernia operation, and his 15-year-old son, A. Thomas Ruebel, ran 400 feet to the overturned sedan, from which the windshield had been knocked out by force of the impact. As flames four feet high progressed along the bottom toward the fuel tank, Ruebel extended the upper part of his body through the windshield opening and pulled Bernell from the automobile. In the same manner he removed another boy and then a girl. Thomas dragged each away from the burning vehicle. Removing his jacket because the interior of the sedan was very hot, Ruebel leaned farther into the automobile to reach those in the rear seat section. Noting that his father was experiencing difficulty in freeing another occupant, Thomas also leaned through the windshield opening and aided in removing another girl. By the time Ruebel had removed a boy and another girl the flames had increased, and heat inside the vehicle was intense. Ruebel found the legs of Wendell, who was inert, were pinned under the sedan. From outside the vehicle Thomas attempted to free Wendell’s legs but was unable to do so. Flames increased to five feet in height and enveloped the entire automobile. Firemen arrived, extinguished the flames, and removed Wendell. He and two of the girls died. The others were hospitalized for their injuries and recovered.
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