Oklahoma man honored for pulling victims from burning vehicle

Pay It 4ward

NEAR PONCA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – An Oklahoma family was on their way to church the morning of October 18. They never made it.

Along Highway 11 between Braman and Ponca City, another driver crossed the center line, hitting the family head-on, causing their vehicle to explode.

Crash photo near Ponca City, OK. October 18th, 2020
John Holden, Sr. lost his life in the crash

Inside, John Holden was driving, his son Andy was in the passenger seat and John’s four-year-old granddaughter Emma was buckled in the back.

Jesse Baker witnessed the crash and raced toward the flames to help.

Emma and her dad, Andy, before the crash.

“Real surreal, you know that truck veered across the center line. When they hit, it was like an explosion and I was just praying that there wasn’t no kids in there and people survived,” Jesse said. “Once I noticed the truck was on fire, I knew I didn’t have very much time, so I just moved as fast as I could.”

Jesse heard Emma’s cries for help and saved her first, followed by her dad, Andy.

Surgeons placed six plates in Andy Holden’s face after the crash.

“By the time I got him out, the car was completely engulfed,” Jesse said.

There was no time left to save John. The Holden family placed a memorial along the highway where they lost John, and where Jesse saved Emma and Andy.

“My daughter is my world, and thanks to him, I have the opportunity to continue to watch her grow the rest of her life,” Andy said as he held Emma.

Surgeons used six metal plates to patch Andy’s shattered facial bones. Emma, too, underwent facial reconstruction.

Future surgeries could be possible, but for now the family is focusing on what they still have – each other.

Emma suffered severe facial injuries after the crash, resulting in surgically placing a dissolvable plate across her ocular bone.

“Jesse was there at just the right time,” Michelle Williams, Emma’s grandmother, said.

That’s why Michelle and Emma’s aunt, Megan Holden, nominated Jesse for a $400 Pay It 4Ward award from First Fidelity Bank’s James Boggs.

“Pay It 4ward actually embodies everything about Jesse’s story. The way he served others above himself, so on behalf of everyone at First Fidelity Bank, I’m so honored and pleased to help you pay it forward,” James said.

Jesse Baker, father of 5, Kildare, OK

Jesse with wife, Sarah, and 1 of their 5 children

When Megan presented the award to Jesse, she said, “You say that this is something that anyone would’ve done, but I disagree, you did something very heroic.”

“I appreciate it guys, you didn’t have to do that, but I do appreciate it,” Jesse said.

OHP dispatchers: Kelsey Moore, Charity Shipley, Teresa Griggs, Molly Achterberg. Not pictured: Ben Failer

“Well, you deserve it,” Megan said.

In the fire, Emma lost her favorite stuffed animal, a giraffe, along with her “blankie.”

When OHP emergency dispatchers learned this, they pooled their money and Kelsey Moore, Charity Shipley, Teresa Griggs, Molly Achterberg and Ben Failer sent Emma several more giraffes and blankets. 

Emma loves to hold her new giraffes, just as her daddy holds Emma now, all thanks to a stranger they now call their hero, who put his own life on the line to save theirs.

Emma receives gifts of new stuffed giraffes and blankets from OHP dispatchers.

“I just did what I felt like I had to do. I don’t necessarily feel like I’m a hero. It makes me feel good to know because I’ve got kids of my own, and I’ve got a little girl, so I know what that would feel like to finally be able to hold her again and to know that you’re going to get to,” Jesse said.

Andy and Emma Holden, Jesse Baker

“You are my angel and always will be and if you ever need anything you just call me and I’ll do what I can,” Michelle told Jesse.  Megan chimed in, “That goes for all of us.”

“Same with me, you’ve got my number,” Jesse said.

A lifelong bond created by heartbreak and heroism.

(Editor’s note: The cause of the crash is still under investigation, however OHP troopers tell News 4 that the driver of the truck that crossed the center line, hitting the Holden family, also died at the scene. The investigating trooper said a smell of alcohol was present. Toxicology tests are pending.)

Nominate someone for Pay it 4Ward!

Pay It 4Ward is a program through which KFOR-TV viewers can help someone they know who could use extra cash immediately.

Each week someone will receive $400 cash because one of their friends or co-workers wants to “Pay It 4Ward.”

When nominating, make sure to include your name, daytime phone number, who you nominate and why. Please follow all the criteria when nominating. 

Email all that detailed information to us for it to be considered. 


Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.



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