A Polk County student is being recognized for helping to save a motorcyclist’s life.

  • Jacob Phillippi, 17, helped motorcyclist Adam Birk, 55, following crash
  • Phillippi prevented Birk from going into shock
  • Birk, Phillippi met for the first time Wednesday

Jacob Phillippi, 17, a student of Kathleen High School’s Sports Medicine Program, will be honored by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office on May 1 for his actions on Jan. 24, when he helped prevent Adam Birk, 55, from going into shock after he crashed his motorcycle.

Birk, from Lakeland, was traveling north on Kathleen Road, when authorities said a man suddenly turned his motor home in front of him, causing the crash. Reportedly, the driver of the motor home told authorities he couldn’t see well at night.

Photo showing the point where Birk's motorcycle collided with the motor home that turned in front of him on Jan. 24.

Phillippi arrived at the scene just after the crash. He said he told the off-duty police officer there that he was trained in sports medicine and was there to help.

“I saw the motorcycle on the ground, and the guy not getting up, and people all around him,” Phillippi recalled. He said Birk was in and out of consciousness.

“We cleared his airway and supported his spine and neck,” recalled Phillippi. “I just had to keep my composure because I knew people were stressing about it.”

The paramedics arrived and took Birk to the hospital. He stayed there for three weeks, with a fractured jaw, a shattered left arm, and cracked ribs, collar bone, and shoulder. He believes Phillippi's efforts, along with the new helmet his wife Jane had just purchased for him, saved his life.

Samaritan, survivor meet

Phillippi and Birk met for the first time Wednesday, inside the teen’s sports medicine class.

"Thank you, young man, very much,” said Birk.

“It’s nice seeing you doing well,” said Phillippi.

“Long haul,” said Birk.

Birk said he had no idea it was a teenager who helped save him.

“He’s a mature young man that’s doing the right thing, and I appreciate it," said Birk. "All you can do is say 'thank you.'"

Birk’s wife also thanked Jacob for helping save her husband.

“His wrist was completely shattered, and he has a blood clot in his lung," Jane Birk said to Phillippi. "But without you, we wouldn’t have anything."

For his part, Phillippi doesn’t consider himself a hero.

“I just consider myself doing a good deed to save the guy's life because if it was my father, I would want someone to help stop, help him out and save his life or try the best they can,” Phillippi said.  

Sgt. James Ring, the off-duty Lakeland Police Officer who assisted Phillippi, sent the district the following statement regarding his character.

"Mr Phillippi's calm demeanor and maturity level were well beyond his years as a high school student. Additionally, his knowledge of treating injured persons was evident in his professional response during this traumatic event. It is my belief that Mr. Phillippi's prompt and unselfish act of rendering first aid to the victim was instrumental in his survival."

Phillippi said he hopes to go to college and become an orthopedic surgeon one day.

Birk, a Marine veteran and grandfather, said he’s taking his recovery day by day. He just got the screws out of his jaw this week, and he said he couldn’t wait to eat real food again.

Classmate also saves motorcyclist's life

Coincidently, on the same day as Birk's crash, but during the morning hours, another man crashed his motorcycle in front of Kathleen High School.  Phillippi’s sports medicine classmate, Ryleigh Watkins, witnessed the accident and sprang into action.

She, too, stabilized the motorcyclist and kept him conscious until paramedics arrived. Phillippi was there to assist her.

"He had severe, severe, head trauma, so I knew I had to keep his head stable to prevent any paralysis that could've occurred," Watkins said.

That man also survived.

Their sports medicine academy teacher, Amy Lowery, said she’s grateful her students are applying what she teaches them in class.

“It’s very, very gratifying," said Lowery. "It’s one of those things where you look for gratification in teaching and it’s hard to find sometimes. When you get this it’s something that you hold on to. Because I’m very, very proud of them."