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Chilly rescue ‘not a big deal’ to station servicer

by on April 8, 2013

(Story by Stephen J. Ostrander)

“It wasn’t a big deal,” said Wayne McGlothlen, a modest AEP Transmission station servicer in southwestern Michigan, a day after rescuing a stranger from the roof of a car that had nosedived into a chilly pond.

Not a big deal!? The unknown thirties-something guy who McGlothlen and another good Samaritan saved on March 21 probably disagrees.

Wayne McGlothlen

Wayne McGlothlen

 After visiting Corey Station, McGlothlen, a 33-year AEP veteran, was driving southbound on Youngs Prairie Road, a curvy county road between U.S. Route 131 and Michigan Route 60, headed for Mottville Station to work on switching. “It was snowing like crazy,” he said, the first day of spring notwithstanding.

Black ice covered the road; snow darkened the dawn. McGlothlen slowed when he saw an oncoming car slide across the road and then leap into a small pond. “It was coming toward me but then went off the road right in front of me,” he said.

McGlothlen found the car slowly sinking into a pond, about 10-to-12 feet from the shoreline. At first, he did not know who was in the car (kids? other passengers?), the condition of the driver (alert? knocked out?), or depth of the water. That was the most worrisome moment, he said.

The driver, unable to exit through a window, seemed trapped in the floating and dipping vehicle. Minutes passed like hours. Finally, the driver opened a rear door and scrambled to the roof. The driver confirmed he was alone in the car. Relief.

“He was all right but pretty scared,” said McGlothlen, who flagged down another motorist. Together the men lifted an extension ladder from McGlothlen’s truck and stretched it from the bank of a culvert to the car roof. The shaken driver had to be coaxed to use the lifeline. Finally, he tossed a duffel bag to shore and shimmied to safety.

The victim was unharmed, but dazed. By now, others had gathered at the scene; and somebody had called 9-1-1.

McGlothlen never got the names of the rescued driver or his fellow rescuer. He didn’t stick around for emergency vehicles to arrive either. With his work there done, McGlothlen retrieved the ladder and drove to Mottville Station. He told his supervisor, Gary Hettlinger, a station supervisor based in nearby Benton Harbor, the cause for his 20-minute delay; then called his wife about the news.

“What a way to serve your community,” said Hettlinger. “It’s not always about providing electricity. It’s about people helping people.”

Hettlinger described McGlothlen as quiet, conscientious and focused on his job. “He downplayed it (the rescue),” said Hettlinger. “That’s the way Wayne is.”

McGlothlen is safety-conscious; doesn’t recall ever reporting a job-related injury.

“We don’t just talk about safety,” explained Hettlinger. “We live by it all day, every day.”

Finished at Mottville Station, McGlothlen headed back to Corey Station, reversing the route on Youngs Prairie Road. He slowed as he approached the pond, 90 minutes after rescuing the stranger. He saw men in wetsuits and a tow truck ready to remove the car. He didn’t stick around to watch either. He was, after all, a little behind schedule.

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