While taking the school bus home, Jerald Withers saw a curious shape in a ditch beside the road. And as the vehicle made its way along Route P in Jefferson County, Missouri, he duly alerted the driver to what he had seen. Withers was dismissed, though, with the assurance that the mystery object was likely nothing more than a deer – perhaps one that had been hit by a passing vehicle.
Nevertheless, the memory of what Withers had seen gnawed at him. And it would continue to do so when he got home. Indeed, according to the 11-year-old’s mom, Brandy Overturf, her son would usually spend his time after school playing football or basketball in the yard or relaxing with his Xbox. However, on this particular afternoon, it seemed that Withers wasn’t his usual self.
Instead, the youngster was thinking about what he had seen by the bridge. What’s more, Overturf could tell that the boy was desperate to investigate what he thought he had spotted there. And, as a consequence, she wanted to help him do just that.
In a November 2017 interview with St. Louis news channel KSDK, Overturf would also explain, “[Withers] knew deep down that it was something – it was not a deer. He went with his instinct.” Thankfully, though, Withers’ mother didn’t dismiss his concerns as quickly as the bus driver had done.
And, as it happens, Withers’ desire to act led to him eventually calling 911. Consequently, the Missouri State Highway Patrol would go on to find the shape that the Festus Intermediate School student had spotted. It was a good thing that the 11-year-old had made an intervention, too, as the object in question wasn’t a deer.
Instead, Withers had spotted a badly injured motorcyclist who had come off the road at or before 4:00 p.m. that day. The man was subsequently identified as 36-year-old Billy G. McMahan of Bonne Terre, who had been riding his Honda CBR 1100XX eastbound on Route P when the bike came off the highway.
Then, after veering off the road, McMahan had slammed into a bridge support. That collision threw him into a ditch, where he was left unable to move. Thankfully, though, he was spotted before nightfall – and saved from the potentially deadly cold.
And although McMahan had been wearing a helmet, he was nevertheless seriously injured. As a result, he was taken to the nearby Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Festus by an ambulance. There, staff reportedly told Withers’ mom that McMahan could have died if it hadn’t been for the boy’s intervention.
Indeed, Overturf later said to KSDK, “The paramedics said that who knows how long he’d even been there, because the bike was so cooled off, that he said he was there for some hours.” She added, “If Jerald [hadn’t] noticed [McMahan], he probably would have frozen to death and not made it through the night.”
And in the video of KSDK’s story, Overturf paid tribute to her son for his actions. “Words can’t even describe it,” she said, her voice trembling with emotion. “It’s amazing. I’m proud of you buddy.”
Furthermore, Withers’ grandfather, Bob Bruenger, seemed to be similarly appreciative of the 11-year-old. He told KSDK, “[Withers] didn’t want to do nothing else except go back and make sure that was a person there and that he wasn’t in trouble.” Bruenger, a keen motorcyclist himself, would also describe his grandson as being selfless. “He’s a great kid,” he added. “He’s always worried about other people [more] than he is himself.”
Plus, the man whom Withers had found also showed his gratitude by making contact with his young hero and thanking him for saving his life. And Withers in turn said that he would enjoy meeting with McMahan.
Withers would also tell KSDK, “I would just tell [McMahan] that I’m thankful that I saw him. It’s just crazy to think… that he could have died and that he’s alive right now – it’s really cool.”
And Withers’ actions didn’t go unnoticed, either. In fact, his favorite football team, the Green Bay Packers, were among the first to congratulate the quick-thinking youngster. The Packers also sent the boy an autographed photo of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, together with a hat, banner and water bottle.
And in a letter praising Withers, a representative of the NFL team wrote, “It is our understanding that you are a loyal fan of the Green Bay Packers. So, on behalf of the entire Green Bay Packers organization, I would like to express our deepest appreciation to you.”
The letter continued, “We would also like to commend you on saving the life of Billy McMahan from his motorcycle accident. What you did was very brave and you should be very proud.” That’s a sentiment that KSDK presenter Ray Strickland would probably agree with, too. Strickland accompanied Withers and his grandfather to the scene of the accident, where they found remnants of McMahan’s destroyed motorcycle.
Indeed, Strickland has since told Scribol that he considers Withers to be a true hero. He also said, “As an 11-year-old, for Jerald to have the wherewithal, on a loud and distracting school bus, to see a man in need and want to help was unbelievable.”
The journalist went on to add, “[Withers] did not think twice [about helping McMahan], and that was so remarkable.” Furthermore, Strickland revealed that he firmly believed that McMahan owed his very life to Withers’ brave and thoughtful actions.
Strickland added to Scribol, “Even when his bus driver thought he was seeing things, [Withers] told his family, ‘No, I know what I saw, and we need to go there.’ That showed real courage.”
The KSDK presenter continued, “And what do you know? There was a man there.” He concluded, “If it wasn’t for Jerald, the man would have frozen to death. He’s a very special individual.” And those are words with which it’s difficult to disagree.