East Mississippi Community College Associate Degree Nursing graduate Abby Ables is pictured here during a Dec. 7, 2023 pinning and graduation ceremony on the college’s Golden Triangle campus. Ables was recently recognized for her efforts in helping pull two men from a burning SUV on April 23 following a head-on collision on Highway 50.

May 15, 2024

East Mississippi Community College Associate Degree Nursing graduate Abby Ables had no idea when she left for work April 23 from her West Point home enroute to her job as a nurse in training at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle in Columbus that she, a deputy and a dental assistant would soon pull two men from an overturned, burning SUV.

Ables was heading east on Highway 50 when she came upon a wreck. She saw an SUV on its side in the middle of the road with two men in it and a second car in the ditch with a woman at the wheel. Media reports of the accident state the SUV and car were headed in opposite directions on Highway 50 when they collided head on. Ables said a third car appeared to have braked and slid into the SUV after the initial accident, but the driver of that car did not appear to have sustained any injuries.

“When I pulled up, it looked like the accident had just happened,” Ables said. “The first responders were not even there yet.”

Ables said she quickly called her employer to let them know what had happened and she was on the phone when Clay County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Woody Woodruff arrived on the scene.

“Nobody else was there but him and I thought, ‘I’m going to follow him and help,’” Ables said.

A man who had walked up was standing by the car in the ditch.

“We called out to him, and he said the woman in the car may have fractured her ankle, but that she was otherwise OK,” Ables said.

Woodruff and Ables turned their attention to the SUV, which was smoking at the time.

“Our focus was getting those guys out of the vehicle,” Ables said. “I remember running up to the SUV and Woody was kicking and hitting the glass.”

Ables said she was tugging on one of the men trying to pull him through the broken glass of the SUV’s sunroof while Woodruff was trying to reach the other occupant. Another woman dressed in medical scrubs showed up and helped.

“She was in scrubs, so we assumed she was a nurse,” Able said, adding that they later discovered the woman is a dental assistant who was also on her way to work that morning.

Woodruff later told The Commercial Dispatch that he was able to pull one of the SUV’s occupants through the sunroof and hand him to Ables and the other woman. The remaining occupant was pinned inside the vehicle. Woodruff told The Dispatch he climbed into the SUV through the sunroof and pulled the man out, handing him up through the sunroof to waiting paramedics who had by then arrived on scene.

Seconds after pulling the injured men away from the SUV, the vehicle burst into flames, Ables said.

One of the injured men was airlifted to Jackson with serious injuries but is reportedly recovering. The other man was airlifted from the scene but passed away enroute to North Mississippi Medical Center, according to The Dispatch report.

Woodruff would later tell The Dispatch he was grateful for the help provided by Ables and the other woman at the scene.

“I still don’t know their names,” Woodruff told The Dispatch. “They were sent from heaven.”

Ables said Woodruff later tracked her down and presented her with a “Community Integrity Honor” medal from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and a “Chief Deputy Certificate of Commendation for Extraordinary Personal Action” for her efforts that day.

“There was also a nice letter he had written and signed to me,” Ables said. “It was a really nice gesture, and I teared up as I read it.”

Ables was also able to connect with the dental assistant and the two are now friends on Facebook. Ables graduated from EMCC’s Associate Degree Nursing program last December and passed her state board exam in January.

She works in the west side emergency department at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, where she is completing her orientation training. She said she enjoyed her time at EMCC.

“I had a great experience at EMCC,” Ables said. “All of my instructors were wonderful and without them I would not have the knowledge or confidence that they instilled in me to be where I am today.”