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Students, staff who helped save teacher's life honored in New Castle

The students jumped into action when Don Criswell fell at a construction site during a class in September.

NEW CASTLE, Ind. — A New Castle teacher got a chance Monday to say thank you to the students who saved his life.

“It’s a wonderful day to be alive,” said Don Criswell, even with the neck brace he has to wear until January wrapped firmly around his neck. 

It’s a reminder of how very easily Don could not even be standing here. 

“I’m standing here and we’re having a conversation and I’m just glad to do it,” the building trades teacher for New Castle Community Schools said.  

An accident in September could have changed all that forever.  

Criswell was working with a group of high school students at a construction site when he stepped on a board that wasn’t secure and fell nine feet, headfirst, onto concrete.  

“And that’s the last thing I remember,” Don said. 

Not so for the students and staff who were also there. They remember everything.  

“I immediately called 911 when I was running to get to them,” said Mackenzie Jackson, the director of New Castle’s Career Center. 

“I took off my sweatshirt and helped wrap my sweatshirt and helped hold their sweatshirts onto his head,” explained student Brendon Powell. 

“He kept trying to fight to get up, thinking he was going to walk it off, like it was another fall,” added Powell’s classmate Gage Reno. 

Credit: WTHR
Don Criswell, right, was seriously hurt when he fell nine feet at a construction site during a class in September.

The Henry County Sheriff’s Department deputy who arrived on scene knew differently.  

“I’ll be honest. I said, ‘Without a miracle, he’s not going to live,’” remembered Deputy John Sproles. 

Not only did Don live, but he was also there Monday night, just six weeks after the accident, to thank the people who helped save his life, when the New Castle Community Schools School Board honored them with the Trojan Award of Excellence.

“We may not have Don, if it wasn’t for their quick action and leadership,” said Superintendent Dr. Matthew Shoemaker. 

"I'm grateful to these three people right here,” Criswell told the meeting’s standing room-only crowd. 

Just as soon as he can, Criswell said he'll be back to work.   

His students need him. 

"Mr. Criswell loves these boys because they're of great value,” he said. 

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