Five Stories of Lineworker Heroics From the Past Year

In honor of Lineworker Appreciation Day coming up this month, we’re revisiting some of our favorite stories from the past year of electric cooperative lineworkers who used their skills and training to step up in a big way for their communities—from dramatic car crash rescues to saving baby birds.

Chilly Water Rescue in Oregon

In Oregon, Columbia Power Cooperative Association’s Garrett Warner (in gray shirt) and Jack Jewell jumped into action when they came across an accident scene in Camas Creek. (Photo By: Lisa Atkin/Columbia Power Cooperative Association)

Last June, Columbia Power Cooperative Association’s Garrett Warner and Jack Jewell risked hypothermia to perform a water rescue in eastern Oregon’s Umatilla Forest, coming to the aid of a driver, passenger and dog after their minivan crashed into a creek. “Linework is assessing risks in a safe manner,” said Warner. “Everything we do is dangerous, but you find ways to mitigate the hazards, so that’s what we did.”

A Family Connection Raises the Stakes

South River EMC line crews credit the co-op’s safety training for helping them rescue a motorist seriously injured in a head-on collision near Fayetteville, North Carolina. At far right is Seth Lambert, the victim’s brother-in-law. (Photo By: David Larson/South River EMC)

South River EMC’s Seth Lambert, Tom Carter, Derek Avery, Austin Britt and Kaleb Barnhill were out on a repair job in North Carolina last May when they witnessed a head-on collision across the street. The crew immediately rushed over and worked to help an injured woman trapped in her car—only to realize that she was Lambert’s sister-in-law, Jennifer. She recovered from her injuries with much gratitude for the co-op’s quick actions: “If it wasn’t for all of them, I don’t know what would’ve happened. They all did an amazing job.”

Close Call on a Delaware Highway

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)

In December, Delaware Electric Cooperative’s Ben Salisbury came across an accident scene and freed a trapped driver from her overturned car minutes before another vehicle crashed into the rescue scene at high speed. It was a “normal rescue” until the near-miss, Salisbury said.  “It makes me feel good [that] she was able to go home and spend Christmas with her family. That whole thing could have ended with a marker and flowers. You start really thinking about how fast things change.”

Tragedy Averted in Nebraska

Loup Valleys Rural Public Power District’s Nick Schaaf (left) and Bruce Koch had just participated in a “mayday” training drill with first responders a month before helping rescue an elderly woman. (Photo By: Sarah Zulkoski/Loup Valleys Rural Public Power District)

Loup Valleys Rural Public Power District’s Bruce Koch and Nick Schaaf were out inspecting lines last September in 90-degree heat when Schaaf spotted what looked like an abandoned vehicle. But inside the car, they found an 86-year-old woman, conscious but injured, who had been missing for two days after her car crashed into a ditch and went undetected by other motorists on the Nebraska road.

Baby Hawks Brought to Safety

Two fuzzy days-old Harris’s hawks and an egg were safely retrieved by Trico Electric Cooperative from a nest lodged on a power pole near Marana, Arizona, and handed to a wildlife rehabilitation organization where the egg hatched, and the three chicks are now thriving. (Photo By: Trico)

Trico Electric Cooperative’s Bryan English orchestrated a delicate rescue of two fuzzy days-old hawks and an egg in a nest lodged against a power pole and distribution lines last June. The journeyman lineman for the Arizona co-op is often called to address recovery of dead birds, so it was a unique chance for a more uplifting task. “Usually when I show up, it’s not something I can actually help,” he said. “It’s nice to save some birds.”