Close Call on a Delaware Highway: Co-op Lineman Rescues Driver Just in Time

Ben Salisbury, an 18-year employee of Delaware Electric Cooperative, rescued a trapped driver from her car just in the nick of time after an early morning accident in December. (Photo By: Chelsea Wootten/DEC)

A Delaware Electric Cooperative lineworker had impeccable timing in rescuing a trapped driver from an overturned car just minutes before another vehicle crashed into the rescue scene at high speed.

DEC Hot Bucket Crew Chief Ben Salisbury was unhurt and both drivers escaped with minor injuries during the Dec. 22 early-morning incident on a two-lane highway outside of Greenwood.

“It was a normal rescue, helping this girl out of the car, until this other car came by and smashed it,” said Salisbury, an 18-year employee of Greenwood-based Delaware Electric Cooperative.

Salisbury was on his way to fix a broken pole in Georgetown when he saw car debris in the roadway. He pulled over to assess the situation, radioed DEC dispatchers to call 911 and, with his flashlight, made his way to the overturned 2016 Ford Fusion. He found a woman “upset but conscious” in the driver’s seat with her legs pinned against the steering wheel.

Salisbury crawled inside the car, and by wiggling the steering wheel he was able to free up enough space to allow her to crawl out. They both made their way to the co-op truck, and that’s when “it got crazy,” Salisbury said.

“We were at the bucket truck, and this van comes flying right by,” Salisbury said. “Never hit the brakes and plowed right into where we just came from.”

A 2018 Chevrolet City Express van struck the overturned Fusion, “causing the van to leave the roadway and come to a stop in a field,” according to a Delaware State Patrol public information officer.

The wrecked Fusion, Salisbury said, was located in the center of the road, just after a turn. Pre-dawn darkness and the car’s broken headlights made it harder to see, he said.

A public information officer for the Delaware State Patrol said the driver of the Fusion, a 24-year-old Seaford resident, was traveling southbound, hit a tree, spun and flipped over. She was taken to an area hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. The other driver, a 66-year-old man from Bridgeville, refused medical treatment.

“There’s no doubt in my mind if that driver had stayed inside that vehicle and been struck by the approaching van, there is a very good chance they would not have survived, or would have been in serious condition,” said Mark Anderson, DEC’s manager of safety and security and deputy chief of the local volunteer fire company.

Salisbury credits his quick response to the co-op’s regular safety trainings over the course of his career. “The training we get here is important. I saw it work. You’re hearing it over and over at different times, and then when the time comes, you don’t even have to think about it. It just happens.”

Shortly after the incident, the bucket chief drove by the scene. “It makes me feel good [that] she was able to go home and spend Christmas with her family,” Salisbury said. “That whole thing could have ended with a marker and flowers. You start really thinking about how fast things change.”

Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.