In late August, Lawless and some of his family members decided to take his birthday gift — a new boat — to Bowen’s Creek, near Philpott Lake. First, they stopped at a nearby store for fuel.
He continued to participate in the family outing, boating for a couple hours while eating pizza and other snacks, before heading back to the boat ramp with his wife, Barbara Lawless; daughter; son-in-law; and grandchildren.
Confronted with mechanical problems, Lawless’ son-in-law asked him to get some tools from Lawless’ truck. There, he got pliers, an adjustable wrench and a screwdriver from the tool box.
“I got about halfway back down to the boat” when he fell face-first onto the ground, said Lawless, of Ridgeway.
“My son-in-law tried to resuscitate me,” he said, but those efforts were futile as the family started asking for help.
Two park rangers, Curtis Brooks and Jordan Moore, were among the first to respond, according to Craig “Rocky” Rockwell, operations manager at Philpott Lake.
They found Lawless shaking “as if having a seizure. He had no pulse and was not breathing,” Rockwell said.
Brooks called to Semones, who radioed 911 for help. Then Brooks and Schlueter “started administering life-sustaining CPR” while Moore made sure Lawless’ head was positioned correctly, Rockwell said.
“It was 15 minutes before Bassett Rescue Squad got to me,” Lawless said.
Lawless said he was told he had “turned completely black in the face and had no heartbeat” when the rescue squad arrived.
A defibrillator was used to “shock me,” Lawless said. “They got me on the gurney and were ready to leave the parking lot when I stopped breathing again,” Lawless said he was told.
The defibrillator was used two more times before he was airlifted from Memorial Hospital in Martinsville to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Lawless said he has been told.
“It’s just by the grace of God that I’m here to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving,” Lawless said. “I thank God, my wife and sisters” and all who continued praying “I’d pull through. They never gave up on me.”