Friends rally around victim saved from I-65 fiery crash

Early in the morning on May 13, Bill Sykes was driving on I-65 in Louisville near Outer Loop when he was involved in a car accident.
Published: May. 20, 2021 at 12:37 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Early in the morning on May 13, Bill Sykes was driving on I-65 in Louisville near Outer Loop when he was involved in a car accident.

Three LMPD officers are credited with saving Sykes’ life and another man’s life after pulling them out of their fiery vehicles.

Childhood friend Jennifer Gross told WAVE 3 News Sykes has had three surgeries since to repair his internal injuries from the wreck. His back is also fractured, but doctors plan to use a brace to try to heal it rather than doing another surgery. Gross said he’s in the ICU, still heavily sedated and on a ventilator, but he is responding to questions with a thumbs up or thumbs down.

“The doctors are cautiously hopeful that things are going well and in the right direction,” Gross said.

Gross has known Sykes since they were in the second grade, describing him as a caring man. She remembers the moment they met and became friends.

“I sat down in the seat behind Bill and I was crying,” she described, ”and he turns around and he says, he says, ‘Don’t cry. My name is Bill and I’ll be your friend,’ and we’ve been buds ever since.”

They have kept in touch and stayed friends over the years. Gross said Sykes even drove from Louisville to her wedding in East Tennessee a few years ago.

“That’s the kind of guy he is,” Gross said. “He would absolutely do anything for you. He’s always putting everybody else’s needs ahead of his own, always.”

After Gross heard about Sykes’ accident last week that put him in the hospital, she wanted to help in some way.

In addition to Sykes being in the accident and now in the hospital, his wife was recently diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer and started chemotherapy. This is the second time she has been diagnosed with cancer.

“She is fighting it,” Gross said. “Such a tough thing.”

Gross said a few weeks ago, she was talking to Sykes and catching up when he mentioned his wife’s diagnosis.

“He said, ‘Yeah, my wife has cancer again, and it sucks, and she’s fighting, but I could literally walk outside my door today, get in my truck, get in a car accident and not come back,’” Gross recalled. “And that sent chills all over me when I found out about this accident of how bad it was and how close that came to being true.”

Knowing all of this, Gross created a GoFundMe page to help with medical costs.

“The first thing I thought about was his lost wages. This is going to be such a big undertaking for them,” Gross said. “He would do it for me, you know. It’s something I wanted to do for him.”

After Gross posted the GoFundMe, Sykes’ colleagues at Teamsters Local 89 heard about it.

“Learning how close he came is really what spurred us to want to get awareness out about it,” Stephen Piercey, communication director at Teamsters Local 89, said. “Bill’s a very, very passionate person, wants to defend everybody [and] make sure everybody gets a fair shake. One of the nicest guys I’ve met in my life.”

Piercey has known Sykes for about a decade working together at UPS and Teamsters Local 89. Skyes is a UPS employee and Worldport steward with Teamsters Local 89.

“The bodycam footage was extremely difficult to watch,” Piercey said. “They’ve got their faces blurred out but I’ve known Bill for a long time. I knew exactly who he was. I recognized his truck and everything. So that was hard to watch.”

Piercey said he’s seen Teamsters all across the country sharing the GoFundMe page.

“It’s really inspiring, and as a close personal friend of his I’m thrilled his family is going to get some of the help they need,” Piercey said.

Family and friends are hoping the worst is behind Sykes but said they are thankful for the officers who stepped in to save him.

“We want to express our gratitude to those three officers because without them, as bad as that fire was, Bill may not have made it if they hadn’t gotten there as quickly as they did and we really appreciate it,” Piercey said.

If you would like to help the Sykes family, click or tap here for the GoFundMe page.

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