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Fallen racer is thankful for rescuers

RELATED: Dueling Turkey Trot races set


Claude Smoak has much to be thankful for this holiday season.

Last year on Thanksgiving Day, he was saved by strangers after he collapsed to the pavement during the Turkey Trot.

“I would not have survived without their help,” he said this week during a phone interview.

Smoak, 73, a resident of Florida, was visiting family in the Fredericksburg area and participating in the annual race when he suffered a cardiac arrest.

One second he was with his wife, daughter and son-in-law, nearing the finish of the 5K race. The next second he was unconscious on his back on Mary Ball Street.

“My daughter told me it looked like something a stunt man would try to do in a movie,” he said.

Smoak said he remembers nothing of his collapse. In fact, he has no recollection of anything that happened that day.

“I don’t remember getting up, breakfast, dressing or going to the facility,” he said.

Other racers stopped to help Smoak, including a Navy corpsman who began CPR. Soon members of the Fredericksburg Rescue Squad and the Fredericksburg Fire Department were at his side.

Smoak said he was unconscious at Mary Washington Hospital for about five days. A physician implanted a defibrillator in his chest to protect against future heart problems. He spent about a week in the hospital and another couple of days in rehab before boarding a train for home.

“I was pretty much full speed in five or six weeks,” he said.

Smoak said he lives in Steinhatchee, a rural area near the Gulf of Mexico and Florida’s panhandle.

“We like to say that it’s a quiet little drinking village with a fishing problem,” he joked.

He works as a citrus grower, cattleman and crabber, he said. He walks each day but has not participated in any races since the Turkey Trot.

Smoak said he is thankful for those who revived him and for those who cared for him afterward at Mary Washington.

“Their hard work and talents gave me another year of life,” he said.

Jim Hall: 540/374-5433