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PAY IT FORWARD

Family gives back to stranger for saving their son's life

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

An Arizona man didn't think twice before jumping into action to save the life of a boy after he was in a horrific crash.

"The last thing I remember is walking out the door," Michael Placencia said.

Michael, 15, was walking to the corner store to buy some batteries but a nearby car crash sent a car flying at him, pinning his leg against a light pole, nearly ripping it off.

His parents were told he might not make it.

"That's the worst feeling for a mother to ever have to feel. There's no way I could lose him," Rhonda Placencia said.

From first responders to surgeons at the hospital, all agreed Michael would have been lost if not for a young man working nearby named Jon Smith.

"I've never seen a 15-year-old as tough as you were. You didn't cry once. You didn't even ask for your mom, which I figured, that's what I would do. I'm a little momma's boy," Smith said to Michael.

Smith should not have even been at work but he was finishing a project when he heard the crash. He ran over and took control of the scene, using a belt to stop Michael's bleeding.

"I said to Michael, 'I'm sorry. I'm going to have to hurt you more than you'd like,'" Smith said.

"When you have an injury like that in the field, timing is everything," orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Tony Rhore said. "Jon made a huge difference."

"You have no idea. There's nothing I could ever do in my life to pay that man back for saving my son," Rhonda Placencia said. "And I want everybody to know how he saved our son."

Rhonda Placencia and her husband nominated Smith for CBS 5 News' Pay It Forward and presented him with a check for $500 this week.

"You saved our son's life. If it wasn't for you, he wouldn't be here," Rhonda Placencia told Smith.

Smith, who will ship out to officer candidate school for the Marines in July, wouldn't accept the money. Instead he plans to donate it to a veterans charity.

"I don't really see what I did as some grand thing," Smith said. "I just did what I had to do."

But without Smith's quick thinking, the Placencias may never have known how strong their son truly is. Doctors had to amputate his leg and when he came to, there wasn't a moment wasted thinking about what could have been.

"Losing a limb doesn't really bring me down because I'd rather lose a limb than lose my life," Michael said.

Michael's prognosis is good, but medical bills are piling up. If you'd like to help, go to any Wells Fargo and there is an account in his name: Michael V. Placencia.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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