Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- A local man who found himself in the middle of mayhem a week ago at the Daytona Motor Speedway reconnected with the man whose life he saved after a late race crash sent pieces of a race car into the stands, injuring nearly three dozen people.
Douglas “Smokey” Horton jumped in to help a fan who was badly hurt during the incident. Horton and the fan never thought they’d reconnect, but NewsChannel 9’s Jeff Kulikowsky pulled some strings and helped make it happen.
Tuesday was the first time Horton and the fan had spoken since their lives became intertwined at the Daytona Motor Speedway. When Kyle Larson’s car broke through the grandstand fence, dozens were hurt, including Steve Johnson, who was badly cut on the head. Horton, a volunteer firefighter who was watching the race just a few rows away sprung into action to help.
Neither Johnson and his wife, nor Horton knew much about one another, but they were all hoping to reconnect. However, none of them were very confident they ever would.
Johnson and his wife, who was also hurt by the crash, are out of the hospital, but still in Florida recovering before they head home to Michigan. They told NewsChannel 9 they have Horton to thank that Steve's injury wasn't worse.
“I remembered his voice. I remember him talking and how calmly he handled it. They did a wonderful job, we owe him a lot,” said Gaylene Johnson.
“It’s a nice warm, fuzzy feeling. That’s why people are firefighters and people help people, for comfort and healing,” Horton said.
"Thank heavens for technology the way it is today and help from folks like you that made it happen, I'm very, very grateful,” Steve Johnson said.
It’s a race none of them will ever forget and now, the beginning of a special friendship. All three are already talking about meeting in person. They’re even thinking about going to Watkins Glen when NASCAR returns for a race this August.