If you’ve ever been stranded on the side of the road with a smoking engine or flat tire, there’s no bigger hero than the guy driving a tow truck to your rescue. Tow truck operator and mechanic Michael MacDonough has been on plenty of jobs like that. But it was the life-saving rescue Mike undertook July 30 that’s redefined him, in the eyes of many, as a true hero.
At about 1 p.m. that day, Mike had just towed a truck with a flat tire back to his employer’s Branford garage, R.J. Shore Automotive on Shore Drive.
“I was under the truck getting the spare down and the next thing you know, there was this big crash,” recalls Mike, 31, a life-long East Haven resident.
In a horrifying chain of events, a car driven by Robert Mattson, 55, of Branford, was heading for the nearby East Haven town line when it hit an oncoming Branford Public Works truck, careened off the right side of the road, and slammed into an unoccupied tow truck and car in the Shore Automotive lot.
“Everybody started running over. Me and my boss went to the driver’s door and when I opened it up, I noticed the seatbelt was dug into his neck,” says Mike.
With six years’ experience
responding to accidents with EMTs on-scene and as a follower of TV rescue shows, Mike, who’s considered becoming a volunteer firefighter, didn’t hesitate to act.
“There was blood all over the place but he was still talking. He was saying, ‘What did I do?’ and I was saying, ‘Don’t worry about that stuff,’” says Mike, who could see the bleeding gash in Mattson’s neck needed pressure applied.
“I took the seatbelt out of his neck and got someone to bring me a fender cover—it’s like T-shirt material. I put that on his neck and held the back of his head and his neck,” says Mike. “I was watching him the whole time because you see on TV they can go into shock, so I was waiting to see what’s next.”
Meanwhile, Branford’s own emergency responders were rushing to the scene. Mike kept applying pressure and talking to Mattson until they arrived. He was later told Mattson could easily have bled to death if Mike hadn’t taken action.
“They got there just in time…he started turning gray,” says Mike.
Mattson was rushed to Yale-New Haven Hospital and survived the accident. Mike’s feat was made a bit more significant when he later learned July 30 was also Mattson’s birthday. A man who said he was Mattson’s brother stopped by Shore Automotive later that day to tell Mike’s boss, Jim Bruneau, that Mattson had made it, albeit with major injuries.
“His brother came that night and said all the ribs on his right side were broken,” says Mike.
What’s yet to be conveyed (as of press time) by Mattson or his family members is a thank you to Mike. But the soft-spoken mechanic says he’s only glad to know Mattson survived.
“They have to deal with him and make sure he’s alright. He’s alive…I see a lot of accidents where it’s just amazing that people survive. I see a lot of blood; [it] kind of puts a knot in your stomach for the rest of the day.”
Mike was thanked by officials of Branford’s police and fire departments.
“The day of the accident, the fire chief and the chief of police told me if I didn’t do that, he wouldn’t have made it,” says Mike.
In a day and age when people are afraid to act because those actions could invite a lawsuit, Mike says he’s not surprised many of the onlookers at the accident scene didn’t rush in to help.
“I just went and did what I could. I talked to an old boss of mine later and he said people get sued for helping all the time,” Mike says, adding, just for the record, “It was a new, clean fender cover!
“Somebody asked me today if I would do it again and I said, ‘Yeah, if it’s going to save a life.’”
After the crisis was over that day, Mike went right back to work, towing away the garage’s damaged truck (it, too, was brand new). The other vehicle hit at the garage was a light blue, newly restored 1972 Mercury Cougar convertible. Just as he’d told Mattson at the accident, Mike says those damaged items don’t mean much when you look at the big picture.
“The cars and stuff like that; all that can be fixed and replaced.”
Friday, August 14, 2009
Everyday Tow Hero In CT
A round of applause goes to Mike MacDonough, a 31-year old tow truck driver and mechanic for R.J. Shore Automotive in Brandford, CT. He jumped into action after an accident on July 30 and saved the life of 55-year old Robert Mattson. Here's the story posted by Shore Publishing: