Troy football player praised for actions at crash scene

Updated: Nov. 2, 2016 at 1:01 AM CDT
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The crash victims call Bryan Slater their "guardian angel." (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The crash victims call Bryan Slater their "guardian angel." (Source: WSFA 12 News)
The Schoonover Family thanks Slater for his actions at the crash scene. (Courtesy: Ryan...
The Schoonover Family thanks Slater for his actions at the crash scene. (Courtesy: Ryan Schoonover)
(Courtesy: Schoonover Family)
(Courtesy: Schoonover Family)
(Courtesy: Schoonover Family)
(Courtesy: Schoonover Family)

TROY, AL (WSFA) - An Auburn woman and her two children are lucky to be alive after a rollover crash.

Now, they're thanking a Troy University football player who saw it all and went above and beyond to lend a helping hand.

Bryan Slater watched the car accident unfold right in front of him.

The 22-year-old Troy senior from Mobile was headed back to Troy on Sunday on US Highway 29. He had just passed through Luverne when he noticed a car in front of him that was swerving. He decided to slow down to put some distance between his car and the other vehicle.

"Right when I backed off a little bit, the car in front of me sped up and hit an SUV that was in front of them," Slater said. "They bumped the SUV and it made the SUV turn and it lost control and rolled at least three to four times down the ravine. Once I saw the car flip, then I immediately turned off to the side."

He dialed 911 and rushed down to the SUV, which landed on its side.

Carla Schoonover was trying to get out of the driver's seat. Her children, Natalie and Connor, managed to free themselves and crawl out of the wreckage.

Slater stayed on the phone with dispatchers until help arrived.

"The first thing that came to my mind was that I hoped that they were ok," Slater said. "The daughter is a soldier. She was already out of the car. She had brought her brother out of the car. The mom she still needed help out of the car.  But the daughter was the bravest one of the whole situation. It was close to a tree so it could have been worse."

Amazingly, Carla, Natalie, and Connor were left with only bumps, bruises and soreness. They had been visiting relatives in Luverne and were on their way home to Auburn at the time of the crash.

It happened on US-29 near mile marker 165, just past the Conecuh River Bridge at 2:15 p.m., outside of the city limits of Troy.

Bryan Slater stayed with the Schoonovers for nearly two hours, providing comfort and giving his witness statement to state troopers.

"I was involved in a crash in high school in my junior year, and there were no witnesses around and I had to be there by myself and I said I wouldn't let this family go through the same thing," Slater said.

Carla Schoonover described their ordeal on Facebook and called Slater their guardian angel. She also credits seat belts with saving their lives, a message echoed by Alabama State Troopers.

Carla's husband, Ryan, emailed Troy University to thank Bryan Slater for his kindness:

My wife and kids were in an awful accident yesterday afternoon coming home from visiting my Dad in Luverne, AL.

They were hit from behind on Hwy 29 going 55+mph and they lost control of the vehicle just 3-4 miles outside of Troy. They went down an embankment and rolled at least 4 times. However, as a true miracle they have no serious injuries! Car is presumably totaled. It was the most horrifying experience of their lives. Having her life and your children's flash before her eyes was indescribable. We are all thankful to be alive today! Wife and kids are all ok, just with bumps and bruises and stiffness. The other party that ran into my wife's car is also thankfully OK.

The very first car behind the 2 cars in the accident was a man who immediately stopped and ran out of the car to check on both parties,  called 911 to report the accident, offered help and stayed for over 90 minutes to give his witness report, and talk with my family.

I wasn't sure how to reach out, but that man is Troy Football player Bryan Slater.  My wife and kids couldn't say enough nice things about that young man.  This day and crazy world, just so nice to hear about the really good folks!

I just wanted to share with you how much he touched the lives of my family yesterday. Hopefully the appropriate coaches and this man's family know what an amazing person he is! You have four new huge Troy Football fans now!

Head football coach Neal Brown received the email and thanked the family for sharing the story.

"I get a lot of things that run across my computer and run across my desk and to get something so positive, it just made me feel really good," Brown said.

Right after hearing from the Schoonovers, he went into a team meeting and read it to the players and staff members.

"It's a heartwarming story. Bryan Slater is a great guy and what a great representative of our football program," Brown added. "In our program, we constantly talk about doing right and that was the right thing to do. He didn't just learn that at Troy. He comes from a great family. He's been around great coaches throughout his whole career so I'm not surprised that he did the right thing."

Slater wasn't expecting all of the attention but said it meant a lot to him to receive a text message from Carla Schoonover and to learn that the family contacted the university. He can't wait to see them in the stands cheering on the Trojans.

"They said they're Troy fans now so hopefully we can get them up here for a game on of these days," Slater said. "The fact that they would reach out to the school, that was amazing to hear back from them. I know it was traumatic, especially for the mom making sure that her two kids were ok. I just thank God that everything worked out and that the family is safe."

The car crash remains under investigation. The driver of the other car was not injured.

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