On Dec. 12, Cadiz resident Sabrina Austin was driving east on Business 68-80 toward Cadiz when her car edged slightly off the road, causing her to overcorrect and hit a vehicle coming from the opposite direction. After the collision, Austin and her three small boys landed upside down in an embankment on the corner of Tommy Thomas Road and her car caught fire.
Traffic slowed down as people stopped to see what was happening, and Hooks, 21, was there with his girlfriend, Ashley Pepper, their infant daughter, Chloe, and his sister, Charlie Hooks. At first he wasn’t sure what was happening and thought people might be reacting to a grass fire, but he soon heard the screams of four-year-old Hunter Braxton Wiseman, who was caught in the backseat. Hooks ran down the hill to free the boy, which was difficult because the seatbelt held him in and Hooks did not have a knife. No one near was able to give him a knife, but the fire apparently burned through the seatbelt and allowed Hooks to pull the boy out as police, fire trucks and ambulances arrived.
The whole experience was a lot for Hooks to cope with. The four-year-old whose life he saved, Hunter Braxton Wiseman, was transported to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville for third-degree burns all over his body. By the time Hooks arrived at the scene of the accident, it was already too late to help three-year-old Brayden Dakota Austin, who was later pronounced dead at Trigg County Hospital.
“I still keep thinking about it … seeing (Brayden’s) face,” Hooks said the day after the accident. “I just wish I could’ve done something.”
Despite these hardships, several positive things have happened to Hooks in the time since he risked his life to save a stranger. In an interview with the Kentucky New Era, he mentioned that he had wanted to go college since the time he received his G.E.D. He wasn’t sure, though, if that would be an option, mostly because he was working at Cracker Barrell to support Chole, who is now about 2 ½ months old. The mention of college caught the attention of Hopkinsville Community College President James Selbe, who soon offered Hooks a scholarship. Hooks said that the college would give him $500 a semester as long as he keeps a C average in all of his classes. He said wasn’t aware if he would be required to take a minimum number of course hours.
Hooks said he plans on attending classes in the fall. He also is planning to start taking English 101 in March.
When Hooks pulled Wiseman out of the burning car, he burned his hand. Some wondered whether Hooks would be forced to pay a price for his bravery in the form of medical bills. However, Cracker Barrel opened an account for people to donate money for Hooks’ bills, which he said helped a great deal. His hand is in much better condition now too.
Hooks was also rewarded with a new car, which has made it much easier for him to get to work and will also allow him to get to classes. Until recently, his mother, Lisa Alonso, had to give him rides to work. Before that, he had driven a Buick, but the transmission became beyond repair about a year and a half ago. After that, Hooks drove an Oldsmobile, but didn’t have much luck with either since the fuses kept malfunctioning.
For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.