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Video: Husband sacrifices life for pregnant wife

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    CARL QUINTANILLA, co-host: Back now at 8:08 with a story of incredible loss and heroism. A husband who made the ultimate sacrifice with a split-second decision to save the life of his pregnant wife. We will talk to her in just a moment, but first, NBC 's Lee Cowan has the details.

    LEE COWAN reporting: Things couldn't have been better for Brian and Erin Wood . Married , happy, their first baby on the way. Life seemed pretty good as they strapped themselves into their Subaru that night. No one could have foreseen what would happen next.

    Ms. ERIN WOOD (Pregnant Woman Whose Husband Died Saving Her Life): You know, I would give anything to be able to hug my husband just one more time.

    COWAN: In an impound lot in Whidbey Island , Washington , covered by a plastic tarp is what's left of Erin and Brian 's car. Sitting next to it is a tan Chevy Blazer , the one that became the weapon that killed a father-to-be.

    Ms. WOOD: I remember knowing right then that he was gone because there wasn't anybody paying attention to him. And, you know, no one was helping him out of the car or talking to him or -- there was no movement over there.

    COWAN: Investigators say the driver of the other car, 21-year-old Jordyn Weichert , was taking off her sweater, allowing one of her friends in the passenger seat to take the wheel instead.

    Trooper MARK FRANCIS (Washington State Patrol): Apparently the vehicle crossed over the center line, they both jerked the wheel, overreacted, went over to the right, then they had to overreact and overcompensate, steered back to the left, lost control and that's when they came head-on into the husband and wife.

    COWAN: But it's what that husband did that is truly remarkable. With the SUV bearing down, Brian slammed on the brakes and swerved just enough to take the full impact of the crash on his side, a split-second act of love and bravery, his wife says, for her and the child he's never met.

    Ms. WOOD: That was a choice that he made to sacrifice himself to keep me and the baby safe because it's just the kind of guy he was, always.

    COWAN: Brian 's parents, soon to be grandparents, are at least comforted by that.

    Ms. JANICE WOOD (Brian Wood's Mother): His first thought was for that baby and his wife. So it -- I'm sure he did it without even consciously realizing it.

    COWAN: Brian wasn't the only casualty, two passengers in the other car were

    killed as well. The cause: Police suspect DUI . The 21-year-old driver was arrested and charged but not with driving drunk but driving drugged. Investigators found cocaine, marijuana and heroin all in the car that night, along with a .25-caliber handgun. As infuriating as that may be, Brian 's parents say there's no room for anger.

    Mr. ED WOOD (Brian Wood's Father): Anger won't help. Love will.

    COWAN: A message that Brian 's wife wants her baby to know.

    Ms. WOOD: That daddy loves him very much and that daddy's in heaven looking down on us.

    COWAN: He missed his firstborn without even knowing if he had a boy or a girl. The baby is due in November, a gift now more precious than ever. For TODAY, Lee Cowan, NBC News, Los Angeles .

    QUINTANILLA: And Erin Wood is with us now. Erin , good morning to you. Our deepest sympathies to you. Thank you for sharing your story with us this morning. Before I ask you about anything else...

    Ms. WOOD: Thank you very much .

    QUINTANILLA: ...can you tell us, is everything OK with your pregnancy? What have the doctors told you?

    Ms. WOOD: Yes. After the accident, all the doctors that saw me were very careful to monitor the baby. And although there were some early contractions and some concerns about that, the excellent medical care I received made sure that the baby is safe.

    QUINTANILLA: It's -- your baby's due November 5th , so you're in the last couple of months here. How are you feeling?

    Ms. WOOD: Well, I was feeling good before the accident. Physically, I'm still doing well, starting to slow down, just like anyone in their third trimester. But yeah, physically I'm doing pretty well.

    QUINTANILLA: Take me back to the night of the accident. There's this out-of-control Chevy Blazer , it's heading right for you. What do you remember about that moment? You've described it as almost being dream-like.

    Ms. WOOD: Yeah. I was actually dozing a little bit in the car on the way down , and so I remember opening my eyes and seeing a car swerve in and out of our lane and then kind of flip and that's the last thing I remember. It was -- it really was dream-like because I didn't -- I didn't connect that it was actually happening, I think I was probably in shock or something like that. But the next thing I remember is that there were medical personnel talking to me and people talking to me and trying to ask questions and get me out of the vehicle.

    QUINTANILLA: And you remember a moment where you looked down and you saw Brian 's hand.

    Ms. WOOD: Yeah. The only visual memory I have -- I have -- I have audible memory of some of what happened, but the only visual memory I have is the car swerving. And then the next thing I remember seeing is Brian 's hand next to me. And then I don't have any other visual memory until I get to the hospital.

    QUINTANILLA: What do you think would have happened if Brian hadn't turned the wheel?

    Ms. WOOD: I think -- it's pretty obvious if you look at the car that if it would have been a head-on crash we both would have been killed instantly, along with our baby. And so he definitely -- I mean, he saved us, he made that choice, and I'm thankful for that.

    QUINTANILLA: Does it surprise you at all that he gave up his life to save your life and your baby's life? You've talked about how selfless he was in life.

    Ms. WOOD: Yeah, it's not a surprise at all, I mean he was very excited for this baby and always just incredibly loving towards me and putting me first. And just an amazing guy. And so no, it doesn't surprise me, it breaks my heart and it also fills me with gratefulness. And I 'm just glad that he's being remembered as someone who really was willing to make that sacrifice.

    QUINTANILLA: You would be celebrating your fifth anniversary soon. How are you coping with this? And what are you going to tell your child about Brian ?

    Ms. WOOD: I'm -- I don't know, I'm not coping well. I don't -- I don't think you can cope well in a situation like this. I'm just trying to draw a lot of strength right now from knowing that he made that choice to save me and the baby, and so I can't waste that gift and he wouldn't want me to. And so I'm just -- I'm trying to focus on what I need to do right now, which is eat and sleep and take my vitamins and just do my job as a mom. That gives me some comfort just to focus on those things and focus on the joy that we'll have once this baby is born.

    QUINTANILLA: Erin , it can't be easy to talk about it, but if it means that we're able to tell people about Brian , maybe it's worth it. We appreciate your time this morning.

    Ms. WOOD: Thanks so much. I just -- I think the biggest thing for me is just to -- just -- it's a reminder to everyone to please just hug your family and love them and make sure that they know that you care about them because I really would give anything just to see Brian and hug him one more time. And so if that just acts as a reminder to everyone to do that with the people that they're blessed to have in their lives, that's my hope.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 9/13/2010 10:06:05 AM ET 2010-09-13T14:06:05

Erin Wood recalls her husband Brian as a selfless man who was counting the days until the couple welcomed the birth of their first child. And while she is filled with grief, she is equally filled with gratitude to him for sacrificing his life to save two others — hers and that of their unborn baby.

The Vancouver, B.C., couple were traveling through Washington state to visit family Friday when an oncoming Chevy Blazer weaved wildly. As the car hurtled at them head-on, Brian braked hard and swerved to the right, ensuring he would take the brunt of the crash as the Blazer slammed into them.

“It’s pretty obvious if you look at the car that if it would have been a head-on crash, we both would have been killed, right along with our baby,” Erin Wood told Carl Quintanilla on TODAY Monday from Vancouver.

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“He definitely saved us. He made that choice, and I’m thankful for that.”

It was a life cut short for Brian, 33, lead designer for Relic Entertainment, renowned in the computer gaming world for such games as “Company of Heroes.” He would have been celebrating his fifth wedding anniversary with Erin on Friday; instead, she and family are planning his funeral for Sunday.

Drugs in oncoming car
According to police, the driver of the other vehicle was trying to take off her sweater while her front-seat passenger took the wheel. Washington State Trooper Mark Francis told NBC News that the vehicle crossed over the center line while the driver and passenger “jerked the wheel, overreacted and overcompensated. [They] steered back to the left and lost control, and that’s when they came head-on into the husband and wife.”

Brian Wood was killed instantly, and two male passengers in the vehicle driven by Jordyn Weichert were ejected from the back and killed. Police found heroin, cocaine, marijuana and syringes in the Weichert vehicle, and a .25-caliber pistol was found on the body of one of the men killed. The Province newspaper in British Columbia reported all four occupants of the other vehicle were well known to local law enforcement.

“There is quite a drug history there ... so that leads us to believe there were drugs in their systems,” Sgt. Jason Longoria told The Province.

TODAY
Erin Wood fought back tears as she described her late husband’s sacrifice.

While driver Weichert is charged with three counts of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault, and her front-seat passenger Samantha Bowling may be charged as well, Erin Wood says she is more sad than bitter over losing her husband. Though she still has a nasty bruise under her left eye, Erin was given a clean bill of health after the accident, as was her unborn child.

And for now, the 31-year-old mom-to-be’s priority is delivering a healthy baby, due Nov. 5. “It gives me some comfort just to focus on [the baby] and to focus on the joy that we’ll have once this baby is born,” she told Quintanilla. “I’m just trying to draw a lot of strength right now knowing that [Brian] made that choice to save me and the baby, so I can’t waste that gift — and he wouldn’t want me to.”

Keeping a journal
Wood recalled Brian talking excitedly about starting a family with her even before the couple married, and he was thrilled about his wife’s pregnancy. She told NBC she is keeping a journal of what Brian was like from “stupid little things to more meaningful things” that she can share with their child at the appropriate time.

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“He was very excited for this baby, and was always just incredibly loving toward me and putting me first; just an amazing guy,” she told Quintanilla. She said Brian’s ultimate sacrifice “breaks my heart, but it also fills me with gratefulness.

“I’m just glad he’s being remembered as someone who was willing to make that sacrifice.”

Fighting back tears, Erin Wood added that she hoped everyone takes a lesson from what her husband did.

“I really would give anything just to see Brian and hug him one more time,” she said. “So if that just acts as a reminder to everyone to do that with people that they’re blessed to have in their lives, that’s my hope.”

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