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Neighbors rush to aid of Utah woman after crash nearly severs her leg

Published January 30, 2013 9:58 pm

Crime • Police suspect driver may have been texting while driving.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Keri Houston was warming up her car in Roosevelt on Monday when police say a man drove into her, nearly severing her leg.

Moments later, two neighbors across the street ran to her aid. They were soon joined by a postal worker just getting off work, a woman who lives nearby and two other bystanders, who worked together to treat and comfort Houston until police and an ambulance arrived.

Houston, 18, remained in critical condition Wednesday morning at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, two days after the group of neighbors helped save her life.

"Definitely, those guys are heroes," said Roosevelt Police Detective Pete Butcher.

Houston was getting out of her car, parked outside her home near 200 E. 700 South, when Jake Antonio Arrats, 27, crashed into her about 5 p.m., Butcher said. The impact nearly took her leg off below the knee, Butcher said.

Jason Hollobaugh, 28, ran to help her and shouted for his roommate Robert Stoney, 29, to call 911. Stoney soon joined him, and recalled his Marine Corps training to turn his belt into a tourniquet to control the bleeding from her leg.

"I saw her leg there — it was all but not attached," said Stoney. "I figured if the femoral artery severed, she's going to bleed out in seconds, and if not, minutes, so I had to stop it either way."

While Stoney called for help, Hollobaugh held Houston, trying to talk to her about her boyfriend and reassuring her that everything would be all right, anything to keep her from seeing the leg. He said he's not going to forget the sound of her screams.

"She was screaming 'Just get me to the hospital, this can't happen to me,'" Hollobaugh said. "I [tried to] slow her breathing…told her to squeeze my hand and held on tight to her."

A man who stopped to help took the phone from Stoney to continue relaying information to 911 while the former Marine focused on Houston. Velvet Stevenson, who lives nearby, fetched cardboard from her car to make a splint, while a postal worker who had just finished his shift kept track of Houston's vital signs, Butcher said.

Six people were tending Houston by the time Butcher arrived at the scene, applying gauze to the wound and fetching jackets and blankets to warm her as her blood pressure dropped. Butcher grabbed extra blankets and an oxygen tank from his patrol car, as Houston had begun to hyperventilate.

The neighbors helped move the woman into the ambulance, which rushed her to an emergency room in Roosevelt. She was then flown to the trauma center at Intermountain Medical Center.

The doctors were able to reattach her leg, but it's not clear yet whether Houston will regain full mobility, Hollobaugh said.

Hollobaugh and Stoney said Wednesday afternoon they had spoken to Houston's boyfriend, who reported that the woman has "some movement" in her injured leg. She reportedly can move the leg down, but not up.

Meanwhile, the police dealt with Arrats. After hitting Houston, he reportedly kept driving for several hundred feet until he crashed through a fence and into someone's yard.

"When he got out, he was screaming "What, what, what did I do?'" Butcher said. Arrats allegedly packed up his belongings and was ready to take off, but police arrested him at the scene. Investigators suspect Arrats had a controlled substance in his system and that he was texting at the time of the crash. Butcher declined to specify what type of drug they suspect Arrats had used.

There were multiple texts sent within the minute leading up to the crash, one of which was Arrat's wife texting him "haha," Butcher said.

The plates on his car also were registered to another vehicle, Butcher said.

Police have submitted charges against Arrats to the Duchesne County Attorney's Office, including driving under the influence, texting while driving and driving without a license and insurance. All of the potential charges are misdemeanors.

Arrats has a criminal history dating back to 2004. He has been convicted twice on weapons-related charges, as well as aggravated assault, threat of violence, criminal mischief, unlawful detention, intoxication and possession of alcohol by a minor, court records show.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mikeypanda

Tribune reporter Janelle Stecklein contributed to this story.