Campbell assistant dean helps rescue man from submerged car

Presented with a matter of life and death before him Monday morning, Scott Asbill turned to science philosophy and the principle of Occam’s razor — the simple solution is always the answer

And with that, Asbill — the associate dean of academic affairs and professor of pharmaceutics at the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences — waded into near-freezing, chest-deep water near Benson Monday morning to help save the life of a young man whose car had overturned into a creek. The “simple solution” also involved reaching down and pulling the driver’s side door open with all of his strength, freeing a 20-year-old man who’d fallen asleep at the wheel on his way home from an overnight shift. 

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Assisted by a State Highway Patrol trooper and between seven and 10 others who formed a “human chain” to pull them from the creek, Asbill carried the man to dry land until paramedics could arrive to treat him for his injuries and likely hypothermia. Asbill, who joined Campbell University last fall, recounted the harrowing tale to WRAL Monday afternoon, hours after the incident. 

“I haven’t had time to let everything fully sink in,” Asbill said, “and I still get a little emotional about it. The young man was lucky. When I first got there, he said, ‘I’m afraid. Don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.’ I told him, ‘Don’t worry, buddy. I’m not going to leave you.'”

Monday was an atypical morning to begin with for Asbill, as it was the first day at a new job for his wife, a nurse, so he was in charge of taking his youngest son to school at South Johnston High School. Not far from the school, Asbill saw a small crowd of cars and people gathered on the side of the road. He said he didn’t see the car at first, but a woman informed him that a car had just flipped. He then saw the four tires sticking out. 

“I could hear gurgling,” he said. “Then the calls for help. I knew I was going to get wet, so I called for my son and tossed him my wallet, phone, shoes and other clothes. That’s how it started.” 

Asbill said adrenaline kicked in, which helped him handle the cold. After assuring the man he was there to help, Asbill said he took a moment or two to gather his thoughts. When the door flung open, he said the driver leaped toward him and embraced him. The off-duty trooper who arrived moments later, Dwight Braswell, grabbed a hold of Asbill and — with help from the other men and women also in the water — pulled the two men to safety. 

“There’s a lot of negativity in the world, but to look up and see a chain of people holding hands to help this young man … it was incredible,” said Asbill. “[Trooper Braswell] told me the whole time, ‘I got your back. I got your back.’ It gave me a lot of comfort.” 

Asbill said he has some training as a fire fighter, so he was prepared to handle the emergency before him Monday. After paramedics left with the driver, Asbill talked briefly with the trooper and then called his wife to let her know everyone was OK. He then drove home to change clothes and get warm before heading to campus in dry clothes — only a few hours late for work.

“It’s a little ironic,” he said. “I taught at our church’s Sunday school for the first time in a long time just this week, and my lesson to the kids was about getting off your donkey to help other people. This morning was just me being in the right place at the right time. And it wasn’t just me. There were other people there. There’s no doubt in my mind, for that young man to survive that accident, the good Lord had to be watching over him. We were just there to assist in the process.”