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WSSU football player saves teen from burning vehicle

Posted July 11, 2015
Updated July 12, 2015

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— Authorities credited a Winston-Salem State University football player with saving a teenager's life after rescuing him from a burning vehicle in Warren County on Friday.

Two people were killed after two vehicles collided on U.S. Highway 158 near Vaughan.

The wreck happened at about 9:30 p.m. after Zachary Rodwell, 17, of 242 Bobbitt Road in Littleton, was driving westbound when he crossed the center line and hit Brandon Lee, 23, of 3012 U.S. Highway 158 East in Littleton, who was traveling eastbound, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said.

Rodwell's vehicle overturned and caught fire. Authorities could not get him out of the burning vehicle in time, the highway patrol said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lee was taken to a hospital where he later died.

Rodwell's brother, Benjamin, 13, who was in the vehicle with him, was airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. His condition was not immediately known.

Kenneth Sharpe Jr., 19, a freshman running back at Winston-Salem State University, was driving home to Harrellsville with his girlfriend, Brittany Whitaker, when they came across the wreck.

"So I automatically put the vehicle in park and I told my girlfriend to go ahead and get in the driver's seat," he said.

Sharpe saw Benjamin Rodwell trying to escape the burning vehicle.

"He was about four feet from the fire," he said. "And I got to him. I was about a good five or six (feet). And I told him 'Hey crawl to me, crawl to me.' I grabbed him. I pulled him on my shoulder and I automatically started taking him to the car."

Whitaker drove to Halifax Regional Medical Center in Roanoke Rapids while Sharpe kept the teenager awake. There were severe injuries to the lower half of Rodwell's body, Sharpe said.

"I said 'What's your favorite color,'" he said. "He said 'My favorite color is orange.' I said 'What sport do you like to play?' He said 'I like to play football.'"

Whitaker called Rodwell's mother, who met them at the hospital.

State troopers and Rodwell's family described Sharpe as a hero.

Sharpe, who comes from a family of firefighters, said he'd do it again.

"If that was anybody I would, you know, do it," he said. "Because if that was me in that predicament I would want somebody to do the same thing."

Benjamin Rodwell is expected to have surgery on Monday, family members said. Sharpe hopes he fully recovers so he can invite him to one of his football games.


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  • Craig Allen Jul 13, 2015
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    Great job young man!! You should be proud of yourself.

  • Jeff Cates Jul 13, 2015
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    Nice job to you and Brittany way to go young man.It helps us all to remember we are all part of the same race the human race!! so love your neighbor because love will always trump evail. praying for all the families.

  • Cary Tom Jul 13, 2015
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    ...and everybody remember the media does not always report just the bad stuff. There is also some good every day. Nice job young man...leading by example and a good one at that

  • Gen Lee Jul 13, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    I'm pretty sure there are plenty of people like him we just don't hear about it.

  • Sam Adams Jul 13, 2015
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    Well done young man, well done!!! This country needs more people like you.

  • Shae Osborn Jul 13, 2015
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    A true hero... good thinking on your feet. Praying for the families involved.

  • Brandy Decker Jul 13, 2015
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    Mr. Sharpe you are indeed a hero. Bless you

  • Jae'lin Crowder Jul 13, 2015
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    Great job Kenneth and Brittany. You 2 are just what our country needs, exceptional ,bright and smarts teenagers!If I was your parents,I would be so proud. My prayers to the families,contact me if there's anything we can do.