Folks are calling Nate Denhalter a hero after he pushed a car off a man’s leg in the Smith’s Food and Drug parking lot.
The 22-year-old Smith’s employee was inside talking with a customer on May 6 when he heard screams coming from the parking lot. Video captured by the grocery store’s security camera shows the driver of a white Jeep attempting to pull into a handicapped parking space and colliding with a customer, pinning his leg to the ground.
Less than 20 seconds later, Denhalter came running straight for the car, shoving it back from the front hood enough to clear the tire from the man’s ankle.
“I just did what I thought was right,” Denhalter said, explaining that it all happened quickly.
The customer, known only by his first name Sebastian, was transported by ambulance to St. John’s Health, where he was treated for multiple fractures. Denhalter said he’s already seen Sebastian back in the checkout line with a cast on, though he doesn’t think the customer recognizes him, and he thought it would be too awkward to say, “Hey, I’m the man that saved you.”
He did call his mother, Lisa Schiro, to share the news on Mother’s Day.
“He was working at Smith’s on Sunday,” Schiro said, “and he’s like, ‘Hey Mom, Happy Mother’s Day. Oh, and by the way, people are calling me superman.’”
“We’re really proud of him,” Schiro said.
She wasn’t surprised her son stepped up, she said, as he’s always stood up to bullies and has a strong sense of justice.
On the day of the incident, lots of others in the parking lot froze in place. One customer waved wildly for the driver to back up, but Denhalter said the driver was an older man who seemed too stunned to move.
Denhalter has worked at the Smith’s in Jackson since last summer, spending lots of his time collecting carts in the busy parking lot.
“I’ve almost been hit several times and developed almost a sixth sense for cars,” he said.
He has also been offered management positions with the store but said he turned them down because he preferred the flexibility of his current role, which lets him get out into the backcountry for camping and adventures.
Clearly even his day job has its fair share of adventure, keeping Denhalter light on his toes, and with an extra eye for caution. And while he may not see himself as a superhero, the local community is certainly grateful for his bravery and quick response.
“I was thinking, ‘What if that was me?’” Denhalter said of the man whose leg was crushed. “I’d want someone to at least try.”
“I was thinking, ‘What if that was me?’ I’d want someone to at least try.” — Nate Denhalter Smith’s employee