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Dramatic rescue from truck fire saves life of Manly woman

The photo fairly oozes with tension as you look at it.

In the background, a Ford F-150 is in flames, heavy black smoke billowing into the sky.

The man in a red shirt in the foreground has burnt-red hands smudged with soot. He gazes down at someone on the ground.

That's Jason Hahn. The photograph was taken just a minute or two after he came to and crossed the street from the burning truck. That's where he'd collapsed after rescuing a woman from the cab of the vehicle.

Truck fire rescue

Jason Hahn looks down after having rescued 61-year-old Donna Rench from the truck on fire in the background.

Hahn, 48, and a Mason City native, was leaving his farm about 11:15 a.m. on Monday and heading west on County Road B20 when he passed a truck on its side in the ditch on the north side of the road. The tire was still spinning and Hahn thought he saw smoke in the engine area.

He turns around. Gets out of his car. Hears a woman screaming.

"Now I'm committed," he says. 

The truck is laying driver-side up and Hahn can see the woman dangling by her seatbelt. He can now also see flames coming from the engine. He tries kicking out the window to no avail.

He remembers a buddy telling him to throw a shovel in his truck to help out with some work being done. He runs back to his truck and grabs it. He begins beating out the windshield with it. He can no longer see the woman for the smoke in the truck's cab.

"She's screaming now and saying things you really don't want to hear," Hahn says.

Another man appears -- "I don't know when he got there, he was just there," Hahn said.

That's Steve Fettkether, 55, of Mason City, who takes over breaking out the windshield as Hahn runs back to his truck for gloves. The F-150 is now hot to the touch. 

"Talk about motivation," says Fettkether, who was also driving on B20 when he recognized Hahn's truck on the side of the road and pulled over to help out. "You never want to hear, 'Help me, help me, I can't breathe.' I hope I never hear it again."

As the glass shatters, both men realize two things: They've just fed the fire with oxygen, and they have very little time left.

Hahn makes a third trip to his truck, this time for his Leatherman multi-tool. He returns to the cab of the Ford now blazing with fire and, standing on the passenger-side window, cuts the woman, 61-year-old Donna Rench of Manly, loose from her seatbelt.

Instead of falling into his arms, the woman drops into the back seat of cab. She isn't talking and Hahn can't see her. He figures he has about 30 more seconds before the truck goes up in flames. 

"Help me pull her out!" Hahn yells.

He reaches around and finds Rench's head. At the same time, Hahn realizes Fettkether has both his hands wrapped around his belt.

And then, Fettkether pulls. Hard. And out they all come.

"Literally, we got her out and it went 'whoof,'" Hahn said. The truck was engulfed.

After that, things get sketchy. Hahn couldn't breathe and thinks he might've blacked out by the truck. When he came to, more people were on the scene with the woman who was in the ditch on the south side of the road.

Another man on the scene, Cory Nichols, took the photo of Hahn looking down across the road from the truck.

The police made Hahn go to the emergency room, where he was observed for a couple of hours and received 12 stitches for his various cuts. Rench was taken to a Minnesota hospital, but is now back home in Manly. 

She has sent several texts to Hahn, some very emotional. 

She also invited him to a barbecue at her place this summer.

Hahn was glad he was there, but also hopes he never has to see or hear anything like it again. He just knew he couldn't give up.

"I just know I couldn't live with myself if I didn't give 110," he said.

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