Pete Baretsky made a difference for many during his 25-year career with the Charlotte Fire Department.
And, one showed up to thank him as he is getting ready to hang up his turnout gear.
WCNC Meteorologist Larry Sprinkle surprised Baretsky at his retirement celebration.
When traffic stopped suddenly on I-485, Sprinkle’s vehicle slammed into the rear of a truck. That was six years ago.
“The dashboard was on my chest,” Sprinkle said a year after the crash, recalling the details.
Baretsky was one of the crew from Ballantyne’s Fire Station 32 who responded to help save his life and offer comfort.
He was at Sprinkle’s side the whole time, including when he asked him if he’d come with him to the hospital.
“He was having the worst day of his life and we only have one chance to make a difference, and apparently we did it right that day,” Baretsky told a reporter after the wreck.
Sprinkle broke both legs, a knee, a wrist and fractured several ribs. He was in the hospital and in physical therapy for months. At certain points, he worried he’d never return to TV.
“There were periods of time,” Sprinkle previously told Ben Thompson. “I’m in a wheelchair, I can’t walk, and I really thought am I ever gonna be back?”
As Baretsky prepared for one of his last shifts at the station where he spent his entire career, his former patient walked in.
“Oh my god, Larry Sprinkle. How are you?”
Sprinkle noted: “This is a great occasion for a guy that has been there and terrible times to do tremendous things like fighting building fires, forest fires, pulling people out of burning cars, helping people who are survivors of floods and hurricanes. And he was there to help me.”
Baretsky said he’s glad to feel like he had an impact.
“It just humbles you because you know you made a difference. And that’s the thing that this job is about is making a difference because most people, as you know, are having the worst day of their life. And if you can make a difference — makes you feel really good.”