Land O’ Lakes teen Tiffany Reinhardt saves Lutz man from burning car
By Kyle LoJacono
Tiffany Reinhardt saw the overturned car on fire and heard a man pleading for help. The flames inched closer to the vehicles gas tank, which would have likely caused a deadly explosion in a matter of seconds.
Reinhardt didn’t care.
The Land O’ lakes teen was traveling on Leonard Road near Cot Road in Lutz at 9:30 p.m. on July 26. She was leaving a friend’s house with another friend and her younger sister Tosha when she saw the crash.
“I heard the guy yelling for help, so I jumped out of the car and ran over there,” Reinhardt said. “A lady was yelling at me to get away, but I knew I had time to get him out.”
Tosha remembers the fire being a lot closer to the gas tank.
“I was so scared because I saw the fire right by the tank and I thought it would explode at any second,” Tosha said. “She’s a miracle.”
Reinhardt estimates there were 15 to 20 people standing near the crash at the time.
“She was the only one who helped,” said Michael Simmerman, 35, who escaped with bruises and minor burns.
Reinhardt said there was never any question about what she had to do.
“I was scared, but I wasn’t going to sit there and watch him burn to death,” Reinhardt said. “I knew I could help him and had the time to do it before the fire reached the gas tank. I knew it could explode, but I wasn’t really thinking about that. I don’t really know how to explain it. I just thought if it explodes, at least I’ll die trying to save somebody.”
The Florida Highway Patrol report from the accident states Simmerman crashed into an electric fuse box, hit a tree and then flipped after the Lutz man lost control of his car. He was wearing his seatbelt and alcohol was not involved.
Simmerman was trying to crawl out of the passenger side when Reinhardt got to the car. She pulled him out through the window, which had broken out during the wreck.
“I got him to the other side of the road and tried to keep him talking so he didn’t pass out,” Reinhardt said.
Reinhardt has been in a car wreck before, but said she has never seen anything like what she saw that Tuesday night.
“To me it was like a movie,” Reinhardt said. “It seemed like it took hours, but it probably was only a couple of minutes.”
To add another element of danger, Reinhardt said the heat from the fire was causing glass and other parts of the car to fly off as if it was sizzling in a frying pan.
“That was the most nerve-racking part,” Reinhardt said. “I was on the phone with the cops, trying to pull him to safety and not get hit with the stuff flying.”
Reinhardt suffered first and second degree burns on both her hands as a result of patting out fire on Simmerman’s arms and legs after she pulled him from the car. She still has to wear bandages to prevent infection.
Reinhardt stayed with Simmerman until she saw paramedics arrive. She went with her mother Christine Lawrence to St. Joseph’s Hospital-North in Lutz to treat her hands.
Reinhardt turned 18 years old less than two weeks before the crash. She lost Medicaid insurance when she turned 18, so her mother sold some jewelry to pay for the treatment.
“And that’s OK,” Lawrence said. “I can replace those things, but I can’t replace my daughter. We don’t want anything from anyone because of what she did, because God will reward her for what she did.”
Reinhardt said there isn’t a lot of pain because of the burns, but her hands itch a lot and she cannot pick up or touch anything.
Despite the temporary pain and money needed to get well, Reinhardt said she would do the same thing again.
“That’s the way we raised our kids; to always help people if you can,” Lawrence said. “If you have the chance to save someone, you have to try. The thing is, she always tries and act all tough and like she doesn’t care about anyone, so sometimes I wondered if this child had a heart, but when it came down to it, she did what a lot of other people wouldn’t do. She’s my hero.”
Simmerman broke down several times when Reinhardt visited him in the hospital two days after the crash.
“There isn’t anything I can say to thank her enough for what she did,” Simmerman said. “I get to see my son again because of her.”
Reinhardt got a call from Simmerman’s 4-year-old, Michael Jr., thanking her for what she did.
“He said thank you for saving my dad,” Reinhardt said. She then added, “It made me feel proud of myself for what I did because he still has his dad.”
We are so impressed with this young lady! We hear so much about all the bad things kids do, and we were so happy to see what Tiffany did to save this guy.
Anyway, I think the community needs to do something to reward this young lady. Her mother had to sell jewelry to pay for her care after getting burns during the accident.
Is there anyway to set up some kind of fund to help reward Tiffany for the heroic thing she did?
What a great story! I’d donate.
Congratulations to Tiffany for her selfless act and to her mother for raising her that way! Thanks to Community News for sharing this inspirational story.
Sheila Tramontana says
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Tiffany, your bravery without hesitation in the face of great danger is true heroism and your mom is right, God will bless and reward you. But know that your actions are honored and recognized by your community and we all commend you for putting someone else’s needs first. God Bless.
tiffany reinhardt says
thank all of you. I am Tiffany Reinhardt I am always thinking about this day. I hope he is still doing well lost contact and no one lives at the address anymore. I now have a 4 year old son who will be raised to always help others. Right now is kind of tough for my family but i’m looking forward and keeping my head up.