Four teenagers who had spent a night drinking were already dead. The sole survivor, a passenger, was pinned between the floor and frame of a mangled 1980 Ford Fairmont Futura that split in half after a high speed crash into a tree in the median on Stirling Road, east of U.S. 441.
“I decided the only way to get her out was to take drastic measures,” Hollywood Fire Department firefighter/paramedic John “Jack” McMillan told the Sun-Sentinel in a story published 21 years ago.
McMillan’s action in the wee hours of that July 1994 morning saved the 16-year-old Plantation girl’s life. The Pittsburgh-born Hollywood rescue worker earned the prestigious Florida Firefighter/Paramedic of the Year award in 1995.
Both of these people, thrown together by one horrific accident, are gone now.
McMillan, who was in the 20th hour of a 24-hour shift that morning, died March 24 in Hollywood at age 67 of cancer.
The victim died in her sleep 16 years after the crash in 2010 at age 32.
“He was very good in an emergency setting and very calm. He just went there and realized to save her life he had to get her out of that car and so he was on the phone with the ER surgeon who walked him through it,” said his wife Candy McMillan.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, he received no additional coaching from the hospital. He used scissors and a scalpel. No anesthetic. The procedure to extricate her left leg from the tangle of crushed metal took minutes. Had McMillan and the team not taken such measures, she would have died, a Memorial Hospital trauma surgeon told the Miami Herald at the time.
The state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services honored the Hollywood paramedics as Emergency Medical Services Provider of the Year in 1994.
“There was no one hero there,” McMillan insisted to the Sun-Sentinel. “You had men and women doing everything they could to save that young woman’s life, and obviously, it was a team effort.”
Colleagues and family say that’s just the kind of man McMillan was — selfless. “He loved every day of that job for 28 years,” his wife said.
He retired in 2005 but continued to mentor students at Hollywood Central Elementary School and taught paramedic classes at Broward College, his alma mater. He golfed, a passion, and volunteered at a 2-1-1 Broward call center to help the elderly seek social services.
Before joining the then-named Hollywood Fire Department in 1978, McMillan, a graduate of McArthur High School in Hollywood, served as a military police officer in the Army.
“Jack clearly imported the fortitude, resolve and discipline he received in the armed forces to his new profession as a firefighter, and it showed throughout his career,” wrote Hollywood Fire Rescue firefighter Anthony Vera in a Facebook post. “He was tough, there’s no doubt about that. And he was instrumental in shaping a lot of our then-fledgling careers, and his stories will forever live on in the halls of our firehouses.”
In addition to his wife, McMillan is survived by his children Erin and Justin. A celebration of life will be private.
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