Instant Hero

Published 8:41 am Tuesday, July 14, 2015

VAUGHAN – Due to the ever changing circumstances on the field of play, athletes are trained to react quickly.

Perhaps it was those lessons learned in practice and on the field that led a Hertford County High School graduate to make a split second decision that wound-up saving a young teen’s life near here on Friday.

Kenneth Sharpe Jr. graduated from Hertford County High in 2014.

Kenneth Sharpe Jr. graduated from Hertford County High in 2014.

Officials are crediting the heroic actions of 19-year-old Kenneth Sharpe Jr., a freshman running back at Winston-Salem State University and former standout athlete at HCHS, after he rescued a child from a burning vehicle involved in an auto accident in Warren County.

According to WRAL-TV 5’s website, two people were killed after two vehicles collided on U.S. Highway 158 near Vaughan. The wreck happened at about 9:30 p.m. after Zachary Rodwell, 17, of 242 Bobbitt Road in Littleton, was driving westbound when he crossed the center line and hit Brandon Lee, 23, of 3012 U.S. Highway 158 East in Littleton, who was traveling eastbound, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said.

Rodwell’s vehicle overturned and caught fire. Authorities could not get him out of the burning vehicle in time, the highway patrol said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lee was taken to a hospital where he later died.

Rodwell’s brother, Benjamin, 13, who was in the vehicle with him, was airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. His condition was not immediately known.

Sharpe was driving home to Harrellsville from Winston-Salem with his girlfriend, Brittany Whitaker, when they came across the wreck.

“So I automatically put the vehicle in park and I told my girlfriend to go ahead and get in the driver’s seat,” Sharpe told WRAL.

It was at that moment when Sharpe saw Benjamin Rodwell trying to escape the burning vehicle.

“He was about four feet from the fire,” Sharpe said. “And I got to him. I was about a good five or six (feet). And I told him ‘Hey crawl to me, crawl to me.’ I grabbed him. I pulled him on my shoulder and I automatically started taking him to the car.”

Whitaker drove to Halifax Regional Medical Center in Roanoke Rapids while Sharpe kept the teenager awake. There were severe injuries to the lower half of Rodwell’s body, Sharpe said.

“I said ‘What’s your favorite color’,” Sharpe recalled. “He said ‘My favorite color is orange.’ I said ‘What sport do you like to play?’ He said ‘I like to play football’.”

Whitaker called Rodwell’s mother, who met them at the hospital.

State troopers and Rodwell’s family described Sharpe as a hero.

Sharpe, who comes from a family of firefighters, said he’d do it again.

“If that was anybody I would, you know, do it,” he said. “Because if that was me in that predicament I would want somebody to do the same thing.”

Benjamin Rodwell was expected to have surgery on Monday, family members said. Sharpe hopes he fully recovers so he can invite him to one of his football games.