A Tri-City Herald newspaper carrier is being credited with saving the life of her competition -- but she says she is just thankful that she was in the right place at the right time.
Jackie Mincey has been delivering newspapers for the Herald in the Prosser-Whitstran area for about four years, but early Saturday she became a part of the news as she helped rescue a Grandview man when his van caught on fire.
Florentino Martinez delivers Yakima Herald-Republic newspapers to 154 customers in the same area, and he and Mincey are used to saying 'hi' as they pass, since they typically are the only ones out so early.
But around 6:30 a.m. Saturday, Mincey spotted Martinez stuck in some snow near a newspaper box on Snipes Road and stopped to help push him.
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Martinez has just one leg -- he lost his left leg about six months ago from diabetes -- and uses a walker to get around.
Mincey then left to finish her route -- she had four of her 312 customers left -- but something made her drive back down the road past Martinez.
Martinez said he had decided to turn around in a nearby driveway, but his van got stuck again.
"I was stuck and Jackie's gone, but then I think she was worried about me because I only have one leg," he said.
He looked up and was happy to see her coming to his rescue for a second time. It took about 30 minutes to free the van, and by the time they got back onto the road, Mincey said she looked underneath and saw that it was on fire.
She tried to use snow to extinguish the flames, but it didn't work.
Then Martinez grabbed the papers he had left -- he was nearly done with his route too -- and his walker and got himself out the van while Mincey called 911.
"At the moment, I wasn't scared, but I was scared after when I saw what happened," he said. "I told her, 'Let's get out of here because the van is going to explode.' "
She drove Martinez a safe distance away, then they watched as firefighters tried to put out the fire.
But the van was destroyed. There was nothing left but the shell, Mincey said.
She stayed with Martinez until his wife, Sandra, who also delivers papers for the Yakima Herald-Republic, was able to meet up with them.
"I'm glad Jackie came back," Martinez said. "If she didn't see the fire, I would have kept driving."
In an email to the Herald, Martinez's daughter, Regina Cortez, said Mincey deserves to be recognized for going above and beyond her duties and saving her father's life.
"I don't feel like no big hero," Mincey said. "I'm just thankful I was able to help him."
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; email@example.com