Bethalto recognizes good Samaritan
BETHALTO – When Lou Thery closes his eyes, he sees burning debris and hears screams of anguish.
“I see it over and over and over,” he said. “The scene was just horrific.”
Thery, owner of Thery Construction Co. in Bunker Hill, was traveling along Buchta Road near Cedar Drive in Bethalto on the night on Nov. 9 and was the first person to arrive on the scene of the tragic crash which killed Roxana High School junior Samantha Owsley on the night of Nov. 9, 2013.
“I was heading home,” he said. “I almost went 255, which I often do, but something inside just told me to go through the country.”
As the result of his efforts at the scene, Thery was presented with the Meritorious Citizens Award by the Bethalto Police Department Monday night during a regularly scheduled Village Board meeting. Following a standing ovation, officers, firefighters, and the mayor shook his hand.
Thery, who raced professionally for many years, says he is familiar with crashes and just did what is in his nature to do. He says if it was not for the debris in the road, he would have driven by without knowing there had been a wreck.
“I thought kids had thrown firewood in the road,” he said. “Then my headlights reflected the glass in the road, and I realized what I was looking at was burning car parts. I knew something had happened just seconds before I got there.”
He got out of his vehicle to see one teenager getting up and stumbling toward him.
“As I was dialing 911 and began looking around, I saw there were kids lying all around me,” he said.
The Bethalto Police Department received the call around 9:20 p.m. Owsley, 16, was driving herself and four other teens when her 2003 Volkswagen Beetle left the road and struck a tree.
Thery stayed with the victims through the entire ordeal, doing his best to keep them calm and helping to load them into ambulances and helicopter.
“It was a nightmare,” he said. “These kids had been thrown 40, 50 feet from the car. Something just kept me going through all of it. I was just baptized last June and I truly think someone was there helping me.
“It makes you think about life and brings you closer to people who are hurt and scared.”
Owsley, who was strapped in her seat belt, died at the scene. The other four teenagers survived and were hospitalized.
Thery thinks about the teenagers from the crash every day, and says he would love to hear from the families to let him know how they are doing.
“I went back to the scene the next day,” he said as his voice cracked. “Seven or eight kids were there, crying. I told them that for Samantha, it was quick and she did not suffer.
“To this day, every time I drive by and see that tree, I think of them. I think I always will.”