Friday, October 30, 2009 was Virginia Gwen Ryan’s twenty-fourth birthday. The long time Woodlands resident and Woodlands High School grad was well on her way to having a successful life. After attending Texas A+M for three and one-half years, studying psychology and sociology she dropped school and returned to the Woodlands.
University of Phoenix hired Virginia as the first Enrollment Counselor without a degree in the school’s history. Virginia was responsible for starting a drive just after 911 and raised over $19,000.
That all changed as she crested Rayford Road going northbound on Interstate 45 just after 7:00 p.m.. Driving her 98 Ford T-Bird she was clipped and forced off the freeway. Going down the grass embankment she crossed the feeder, her vehicle struck a yield sign sending ir airborne and ripping the fuel lines from under it. The car crashed through the Briar Crest Apartment sign and caught fire. Over twenty people stood around in horror, some staring, some calling 911 as Virginia was burning with the vehicle.
That was until Steven Jones, a truck driver by profession on his way to pick his wife up from Hermann Memorial witnessed the crash from six cars back. Jones, without considering his own life attempted to get to Virginia through the drivers door but the damage prevented it. He then went around the passenger side, with flames heavily consuming the vehicle, he pulled Virginia’s shoulder strap off. Seeing there was no way to release the seatbelt already melted to her her grabbed her and jerked her out of the vehicle.
Soon after South Montgomery County Fire Department arrived along with EMS. Virginia was flown to Hermann Hospital in Houston with burns over forty-five percent of her body. Jones was treated for burns received on the scene.
DPS troopers working the accident had to wait until the car was extinguished, with fuel still feeding the fire the vehicle was completely destroyed. The only way troopers were able to identify the vehicle was after it cooled, they were able to locate a vehicle identification number on the engine. A check of the registration came back to Virginia’s father, John Ryan.
John and his wife Debbie were pulled out of a sound sleep with a loud knocking at the front door. John opened the door to a trooper standing in front of him. The trooper asked if he had any son’s or daughter’s that were driving his T-Bird. Debbie Ryan, now halfway down the stairs heard this and rushed to the door. Knowing that they had lost their child by the way the trooper asked the question.He didn’t see her before he arrived and everything including identification was consumed by the fire.
The trooper then assisted them on getting to Hermann Hospital where they learned of their daughters extensive burns and that she was in a coma with massive trauma. Virginia remained in that coma for forty-six days. During that time both her parents Debbie and John remained at the hospital.
John, was in the Vietnam War, he was part of the 82nd Airborne. Now on full medical disability he spent many nights sleeping in his car in the Hermann Hospital parking garage instead of driving home. Just to be close by his daughter. Debbie, who works retail sales at a local department store also remained at the hospital.
On the forty-sixth day Virginia came out of her coma, barely speaking she asked if she had hurt anyone.
Doctor Red Duke has performed twenty-eight of the over forty surgeries performed on Virginia. Her face has gone through seven reconstructive procedures. After eleven months in the hospital, five of which were shock trauma the bills had mounted up to over $2 million dollars. John Ryan praised Dr. Duke for is caring and concern. Every night as he finished his day he would come in and check on Virginia.
Virginia is not even close to being out of the woods yet. She still has an open stomach, fed through a neck tube she awaits a so far unsuccessful procedure to reattach her colon and intestines.
Sunday, October 30, 2011 was Virginia’s twenty-sixth birthday and the second anniversary of her crash. She was able to spend it at home with her family and friends and a special guest, Steven Jones, her rescuer. This was the first time she has been ale to meet him.
This is nothing new for Jones either. Nearly a year before Virginia’s crash Steve was driving his truck through Colorado when he came up on another accident. A drunk driver struck a vehicle. When he got to the vehicle which was also burning he saw the female driver was beyond help. Then he noticed a child seat in the rear of the car. In it a small child which he pulled from the vehicle. The baby survived, the mother didn’t. Steve was burned then too.
Dr. Duke has told the family that with Virginia’s condition she will need many more surgeries and her survival is between her and God.
VIRGINIA THEN AS SHE WAS IN A COMA
VIRGINIA TODAY WITH HER RESCURER STEVEN JONES