‘Happened to be at the right place at the right time,’ UT police officer says after saving man’s life in I-40 camper fire incident

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It was just a normal Wednesday afternoon for UT Police Corporal Kyle Botica, until he came across a burning camper.

Botica said he was running errands on his day off when he saw smoke up ahead of him on Interstate 40 westbound.

As he got closer to the scene, he saw a camper in flames and no first responders close by.

“I didn’t notice any emergency vehicles going by me and I didn’t see any behind me and I didn’t see any there. So, at that point I thought ‘I gotta stop cause this is new. There’s nobody here, nobody’s responded yet,'” Botica said.

For him, it was simply his training kicking in. He knew he needed to help in any way he could.

“You kind of get wired to see a problem and try to help when you do, at least for me personally. I’d also rather do something than go by and regret not doing something,” he said.

Botica said some bystanders were already at the scene trying to get the driver and truck away from the burning camper.

“I checked with people to make sure everyone was okay…and I helped move some stuff away from the fire,” Botica said.

At that point, he had no idea that wasn’t going to be the only emergency he needed to respond to.

One of the bystanders collapsed right in front of him.

“Myself and some of the other people who were there, picked him up and moved him further away from the fire. I think he was probably only like 30 feet from the trailer when he fell,” Botica said.

Officials said the man had a heart attack.

“I couldn’t get a pulse off of him and I couldn’t see him breathing,” Botica recalled.

Botica said he and a nurse, who was also a bystander, started administering CPR.

“A nurse who was there, I don’t know who she is, I don’t know her name or anything, um, she was at his head and counted for me. (She) had a little…portable mask with her and actually gave breaths,” Botica said.

He said they gave CPR until medics arrived at the scene and transported the man to the hospital.

Botica has been working for UTPD for nine years; eight years as an officer and one as non-commissioned security.

He said that because of his extensive training he knew what to do, and had a natural instinct to stop and help.

Botica was amazed at the other bystanders who didn’t have the same training, but risked their lives to help a stranger.

“I also want to thank other people who showed up. It’s not something everyone does, and so it’s very admirable that multiple people stopped to help complete strangers and put themselves potentially in harms way to do so,” Botica said.

He had two more people to thank.

One was the nurse, who Botica said he had no idea who she was.

“Nursing’s another career you choose to help people and you put yourself under a lot of stress to do that. And I really appreciate her work, her help. It made things a lot smoother and it very well likely helped that man survive,” Botica said.

Lastly, he wanted to thank the man he helped save.

“He was there to help people he didn’t know and he obviously put himself in legitimate harms way to do so,” Botica said. “It’s always encouraging to see people who don’t have the training that I have and don’t have that built-up response where they just kind of automatically go. To see them doing that too is just really encouraging.”

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