The Canal Winchester Times

Snowplow run turns into rescue mission

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Jeanette Coleman, right, of Canal Winchester, is recovering from a broken hip she sustained in a fall outside her home Jan. 3. She was rescued by city employee Brenton Austin, left. who was plowing snow and saw Coleman waving for help after she fell.

When Canal Winchester snowplow driver Brenton Austin headed out to make the city's roads safer Jan. 3, he had no idea how directly he'd be involved in saving someone's life.

Austin was doing his best that day to stay warm in the cab of his snowplow while the city was under a wind chill advisory, when he spotted someone in trouble, waving frantically for attention.

"We'd all been called in for the snowstorm and I headed out plowing; I was over on Eagle Ridge Lane when I saw what looked like someone sitting outside," Austin said. "I had to kind of turn around and when I did, I saw her waving."

The person he saw was 87-year-old Jeanette Coleman, a resident of Eagle Ridge condominiums.

"My trash had to be set out and so I got out and pushed the can about halfway down the drive when I slipped and fell and tipped the whole can over," Coleman said. "Well, I couldn't get back up, so I just kept pushing against the snow to get back to the garage, but then I couldn't get myself in."

What Coleman didn't know at the time was she'd broken her hip.

"It was early so there weren't any cars going by and I couldn't get any neighbors, so when I saw the truck coming, I started waving hard and yelling. Good thing he saw me and stopped," she said.

Austin said he couldn't hear Coleman at all over the sound of the truck, but the frantic waving was enough for him to realize something was wrong.

"If she'd just laid there, I might not have known she was there at all, or that she needed help," he said. "After I stopped, I got out and over to her and managed to pick her up and get her seated on a chair in the garage."

At that point, Austin called his supervisor, City Streets Manager Shawn Starcher, who came over immediately to help move Coleman inside.

"Brenton had already gathered her up and got her out of the cold before I got there to help get her inside, and you'd have never known how bad she was hurt by how appreciative she was, just thanking us," Starcher said. "She didn't seem to be in any pain."

However, they thought it was best to call for a squad, which ended up being necessary.

"You couldn't have gotten me a nicer person to help me out," Coleman said of Austin. "He was very friendly and all smiles when he picked me off the ground, called Shawn to come and help me in the house."

Coleman's sons also were appreciative of the city employees' efforts. Michael Coleman, who lives in Groveport, went to the house after his mom was rescued. His brother, Pat, lives in Morehead, Ky., and another brother, Jeff, lives in New Lexington, Ohio.

"I can honestly say that if he hadn't been paying attention to his surroundings, the outcome might have not been good, considering the remote location of her home, and the single-digit temperatures," Starcher said. "He deserves all the credit here."

Austin is much more humble about the incident, saying it was just lucky timing.

"I was just there at the right time and I'm glad it all worked out," he said. "I'm sure anyone else would've done the same thing."

Both Mayor Michael Ebert and City Council President Rick Deeds, along with Starcher and other city officials, praised Austin for what he did and thanked him for his efforts.

"It's people like Brenton that care that much that make our city so special," Deeds said.

Austin grew up in Canal Winchester and has been working for the streets department for the past five years.