Crash victim thanks first responders for saving her life almost a year after accident

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Jacquelyn Pallay can stand on her own today because of the help she got from Tampa Fire Rescue almost a year ago. 

"Yeah, I probably wouldn't be here right now," she said. "Or I would be paralyzed, or anything like that could have happened." 

Last July, she was a passenger in an SUV that rear-ended a tanker truck near the railroad tracks on Adamo Drive. The SUV flipped over and landed on its side in a ditch.

The driver suffered minor injuries, but Jacquelyn's were more severe. Lt. Jacob Knighton was at the scene that night.

"I thought at best she would be possibly in a wheelchair, maybe with crutches or something," he remembered.

She couldn't move her legs. Tampa Fire called out its Heavy Rescue Unit and used the Jaws of Life to cut out the SUV from around Jacquelyn and avoid additional injuries. 

"She was able to talk, she was breathing," said Knighton. "I wanted to make sure we gave her the best possible chance to have a positive recovery." 

That they did. The crash almost severed Jacquelyn's spine. Doctors had to put several pins in her spine, and screws in her back and neck. 

"I'm thankful to God every day," she said. "When I wake up, I wiggle my toes, I walk, I'm like... It's a very awesome feeling." 

Down at Station 1, Jacquelyn was finally able to thank the first responders who saved her life. 

"It's probably one of the most important days of my life to be honest with you, besides you know, being here, getting to meet the people that were there that night and saved me from the most tragic thing that could happen to a lot of people," she said. "A lot of people don't walk away from it, or they don't live through it, so I'm very thankful that I am." 

Today, Jacquelyn is doing both because of the quick response of these men and her unwavering strength to never give up. 

"It's awesome to prove people wrong, you know what I mean?"