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‘Night of Heroes’ Honors the Amazing Survival Story of Jason Schechterle
By Mike Saucier
A phalanx of heroes descended upon the Phoenix Art Museum last week as Maricopa Health Foundation honored Jason Schechterle and those who helped with his care and legal fight.
The event was accurately dubbed “Night of Heroes.”
After serving four years in the Air Force, at the age 26, Schechterle achieved his goal to work on the streets of Phoenix as a rookie police officer. Then, in 2001, only 14 months into his dream career, his life took an unexpected tragic turn.
He survived a horrific accident when a taxi, traveling at over 100 mph, smashed into his patrol car. Upon impact, Schechterle’s car burst into flames, trapping him inside. He suffered severe burns to over 40 percent of his body. It drastically altered his appearance. He has undergone more than 50 surgeries just to have the ability to accomplish simple daily tasks.
He would later learn that other law enforcement officers across the country were dying in similar fires, trapped inside burning Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors.
The Night of Heroes, Schechterle told Frontdoors Media, represents “the culmination of the last 16 years and how my life was greatly affected by the people at county hospital and how I’ve seen so many of my peers and friends, countless family members and wonderful life-changing events from compassionate people that will carry on for generations.”
Schechterle, a Valley native, said he never imagined he would need the services given to him at the county hospital but today is “very proud to be both a Phoenician and a burn survivor who was helped by the Burn Center.”
Dr. Kevin Foster serves as the chief of burn services at The Arizona Burn Center in Phoenix and is the Director of Surgical Research at Maricopa Integrated Health System. He said it was his honor to care for Schechterle.
“It’s nice to see somebody with the magnitude of his injuries survive, thrive and go on to be a wonderful person, a different person than he was before he got burned,” Foster said. “Maybe a better person. I think it’s a great opportunity to educate people about the injury because if you asked Jason what he knew about the Burn Center before it happened to him, he didn’t know a thing about it. Most people don’t and that’s a good thing. But on the other hand, this is a great community resource and I think it’s nice to celebrate it.”
Schechterle, when approached to take part in the Night of Heroes event, demurred, said Nathan Lowrie, CEO of Maricopa Health Foundation.
“He said, ‘I’m not a hero. It’s really all the people down there doing this day in and day out to serve others,’” Lowrie said., adding that Schechterle’s story makes him think about the “ripple effect and how we’re all in need of each other at some point and the more connected we can be and the more serving we can be in our community the better it is for all of us to have a great place to live.”
Patrick McGroder, lead co-counsel in Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors fuel-fed fire cases in Arizona and across the U.S., said that the event represented “an opportunity to honor the people at Maricopa Integrated Health System, who quietly, humbly, day by day, save lives.”
Mark Dewane, district 2 director for the Maricopa County Integrated Health System, said, “Tonight is about the past, present and future of the Maricopa County Hospital System, what it means to the fabric of the community. We want to celebrate Jason Schechterle and for the first time in history tell the story of his legal team, his medical team and his struggles and triumphs and the very difficult conditions that came about 16 years ago.”