ORADELL, N.J. — William Paterson University Baseball Coach Mike Lauterhahn of Oradell was sitting down to dinner at a Florida hotel during his team's 10-day Spring Break on Tuesday when he and assistant coach Marc Palestina heard a loud crash and screaming outside.
"The first thing I thought of was my players, because I am supposed to be down here taking care of them," Lauterhahn told Daily Voice from the Bahama Bay Resort hotel in Davenport. "That's probably why we jumped into action so quickly."
Both coaches sprinted from their room, scaled a six-foot wall surrounding the resort and found the fiery wreckage of a two-car, head-on collision.
Lauterhahn told Palestina to call 911, then ran to a young woman trapped inside her burning vehicle.
"She banged her head badly on the windshield and was very disoriented," said the 44-year-old Wallington native, who is entering his ninth season as the Pioneers head coach. "I told her we didn't have a lot of time and she needed to wrap her arms around my shoulders."
Lauterhahn lifted the woman through the driver's seat window and brought her across the road to safety.
The driver of the other vehicle had crawled from the wreckage but was lying dangerously close to the flames.
So Lauterhahn and Palestina, a Paramus native, brought him across the road, as well.
Responding police officers thought Lauterhahn was in the accident.
"I was covered in the woman's blood," he explained.
Lauterhahn thought he'd be mostly a caretaker during the trip. He'll return to Oradell on Sunday a hero.
"It all happened so fast," he told Daily Voice. "I'm still worrying about the 30 kids I have down here with me, so I haven't really had time to process anything.
"I just keep thinking about my players and my family," Lauterhahn said. "If anything like that ever happened to them, I hope somebody else would do the same."
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