Timely Tow From Co-op Line Supervisor Helps Stranded First Responders

Kevin Orduno, a line supervisor at KAMO Power, went beyond the call of duty towing this emergency vehicle from an icy Missouri ditch. (Photo Courtesy: Taney County Ambulance District)

Sometimes even first responders need a helping hand.

When Kevin Orduno, a line supervisor at KAMO Power, set out for work in the early morning of a frigid January day, he knew an icy blanket across southwest Missouri would make driving treacherous.

That was especially true when he found an ambulance from the Taney County Ambulance District responding to a call, but stuck precariously in a steep ditch along the side of State Highway MM near the crossroads community of Mildred.

“I kind of slowed down and tried not to hit them and asked them if they were OK,” Orduno said. The driver explained he already had requested a backup emergency vehicle, so Orduno drove to the top of a hill, visited with another utilities supervisor and figured he would wait around, just in case something happened.

It did. The second ambulance came along, passed the first and then slid off a corner into the ditch.

What occurred next was not taught in lineworker school. Recognizing he represented the ambulance’s only immediate hope for rescue, Orduno asked for permission to pull the second vehicle back onto the road since it was more accessible than the first.

“The road was absolutely horrible. Nobody could drive on it without chains. Even the salt trucks were getting stuck,” Orduno said. “So the guys in the ambulance said, ‘Yeah, if you could; we’re still trying to get to a call down the road.’”

The extrication was no ordinary tow job. The ambulance truck, built on a Dodge 5500 chassis, weighed 16,500 pounds and was about 10 feet high, according to Johnathan Tudor, public information office for the Taney County Ambulance District.

Orduno backed his KAMO Power truck into a neighboring driveway and used the front winch to slowly bring the ambulance back on to the icy, two-lane country road.

“It actually took a lot longer than it should because I didn’t have enough cable, so I had to use five different ratchet straps and almost had to empty my truck of equipment,” Orduno said. “I had to get myself in a spot where I didn’t get hurt or cause problems for my truck.”

Orduno thought retrieving the first ambulance was too risky, so that occurred later in the day. “When the roads are like that, unless you have chains, you aren’t getting very far,” he said. With his assistance, the personnel were able to proceed to their emergency call.

“I have worked for TCAD paramedics for over 20 years. Although we have had people help us on various scenes, never have we had someone go above and beyond to the level that Kevin did that day,” Tudor said. “This good Samaritan made a significant difference in that patient’s life.”

Orduno received recognition on a local TV newscast, and KAMO Power CEO Ted Hilmes said the cooperative is immensely proud of his quick response.

“Kevin went to extra lengths to provide help at a time when it was badly needed,” Hilmes said. The Vinita, Oklahoma-based G&T has a significant presence in Missouri, supplying power to eight cooperatives there.

“We all live in a rural area and grew up playing on the ice, but there’s just no real training for it other than real-world experience,” said Orduno. “When somebody’s in trouble, you try to give them a hand.”

Steven Johnson is a contributing writer for NRECA.