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Tow-truck driver became her angel (PA)


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The original article source is no longer available.

However this was posted on Tow411 in December of 2004:


I wanted take this opportunity to share it.


John Grogan | Tow-truck driver became her angel

What had begun as just another family reunion at Philadelphia International Airport escalated quickly into a life-or-death race against the clock.

Mary Helene Wagner, 78, had just arrived at the airport at dusk Nov. 9 after an uneventful flight from her home in Oakland, Calif. Waiting to greet her at the gate were her sister, Katherine "Kitti" Colucci, 65, and Kitti's husband, Richard, of Little Egg Harbor, near Atlantic City.

The threesome chatted as they loaded Wagner's bags into the Coluccis' car in the parking garage.

That's when it happened.

"Kitti suddenly cried out in pain and put her hands to her forehead," Wagner said. She moaned about an excruciating headache and began to vomit.

"She started to scream, 'My head, my head,' " Colucci's husband added.

"I knew we had to move," the older sister said. "I said to Richard, 'We have to get to an emergency room.' "

But where, and how? None of them were familiar with Philadelphia, and there was no one in sight to ask. They drove out of the garage and asked the parking attendant for directions, but because of a language barrier, they could not understand what he was trying to tell them.

They headed off into the darkness, knowing each lost minute could make a terrible difference. "I was looking around; I didn't know the area at all. I realized we were in trouble," Richard Colucci said.

A brief touch

He pulled into an Exxon station and frantically asked a customer for directions, but again without luck. His wife was again vomiting out of the car, cradling her head.

That's when Wagner spotted the least likely of guardian angels - a member of that profession area motorists love to hate: a Greater Philly tow-truck driver. He was filling the gas tank on his big lime-green wrecker, and Wagner figured he must know the way to the nearest hospital.

"I approached him for help. He was trying to tell me what to do, but I think he could see the look on my face," she said. "He reached out and touched me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, 'Follow me.' "

Yellow emergency lights flashing, the driver led them through rush-hour traffic, winding his way across the city until he pulled up at the emergency-room doors of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The driver hesitated just long enough to make sure the Coluccis reached the curb.

"He tooted his horn, turned off his [emergency] lights, and just drove away," Wagner said. "We never saw the side of the truck, the name or anything."

All she knew of the mystery man was his first name, James.

Only after they were inside did they fully realize just what a crucial role the stranger had played in the emergency. Not only had he quickly led Kitti Colucci, who had suffered a triple ruptured brain aneurysm, to a hospital, he led her to the right hospital.

As one of the nation's top medical centers, HUP had a team of neurologists on duty to begin immediate aid when the Coluccis walked in.

An angel in disguise?

Doctors confirmed that in such a case, every second counted. Without the tow-truck driver's intervention, Richard Colucci said, "most likely Kitti would have died. We'll never know for sure."

More than a month later, she remains hospitalized and faces long rehabilitation. But she is alive, and her husband and sister won't forget the kind stranger.

"I want him to know we are very grateful," Wagner said. "I hate to think about what would have happened had we [stopped at the gas station] and James hadn't been there."

Richard Colucci believes it was more than coincidence. "I personally feel that somebody upstairs was looking out for us," he said. "This fellow was there for a purpose."

He wished he could find the driver.

"I would embrace him if I could. I would thank him, and I would tell him that he was an angel," Colucci said. "That might sound corny, but I really mean it. You have to understand, we were looking at life and death."

Colucci might get his chance.


Pttowguy said:

What a great story!!emoticonappl.gif
body soother said:
Nice to have a positive story and not a negative one, thanks for the post. +++++++++JimImagea.gif
towincarz said:
Wow! Knowing what I know about brain anuerisms, which isn't a great deal, they were very lucky indeed. Just recently, have known through friends of 3 people dying while driving from brain anuerisms. Hope to find out who the good Samaritan is..
maresco motors said:
That's why we do our jobs right to help people in need. No matter what.
Followup to original article identifies tow operator:
The Good Samaritan in the lime-green tow truck is a mystery no more.

His name is James Pratt, and he is a 30-year-old single dad who graduated from Germantown High School, Class of '91, and served in the Army in Germany before earning a discharge because of a bad back. He now lives in Conshohocken with his daughter. "She turns 5 on Christmas Day," he said.

Pratt makes his living patrolling a stretch of I-95 under contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, swooping in to help stranded motorists and remove disabled vehicles to keep traffic moving.

He was just ending his shift on the evening of Nov. 9 when he pulled into the Airport Exxon station at Philadelphia International Airport to refuel.

That's when his life intersected with the lives of Mary Helene Wagner, 78, of Oakland, Calif.; Wagner's sister, Kitti Colucci, 65, of Little Egg Harbor, N.J., and Kitti's husband, Richard.

As I described yesterday, the Coluccis had just picked up Wagner from Philadelphia International Airport when Kitti Colucci was struck without warning by a searing, violent headache and vomiting, the result, she would later learn, of a triple ruptured brain aneurysm. The three were lost and in desperate need of a hospital.

Wagner ran up to the tow-truck driver, and he began to give her directions. But two things became immediately clear to Pratt: Every second was of the essence, and the frantic travelers were not going to be able to find the hospital on their own.

"Follow me," he told her and then, yellow lights flashing, led the family through rush-hour traffic to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where more than one month later Kitti Colucci continues to recover.

The Coluccis and Wagner were grateful to the tow-truck driver who led them to the front doors of the hospital, but they had no way of telling him so. He had vanished without giving them anything but his first name. And so Wagner called me.

Based on the little she knew - a lime-green truck and an Exxon station near the terminal - I was able to find Pratt through his boss, Kevin Bowe, a Conshohocken-based tow operator who runs Airport Exxon and has the PennDot Expressway Safety Service Patrol contract.

"I'm not really surprised," Bowe said when told of his employee's actions to help the stricken woman. "He's a good guy."

Pratt downplayed what he had done. He was about to drive back to Conshohocken anyway, he said, and the hospital was not that big a detour.

"I just told them to follow my lights," he recalled. "I got them to the front door of the hospital and kept going. I never heard anything after the fact."

When I told him that Richard Colucci had credited his good deed with saving his wife's life, Pratt hesitated a moment before saying, "That's a pleasant plus. It's a beautiful thing to know." He had no idea just how significant his small act of kindness was to these desperate strangers who had stumbled upon him.

As a tow-truck driver, he said, he is either loved or hated. Loved by those who are stranded and he rescues; hated by those who are parked illegally and he tows. "You learn to take the good with the bad," he said.

Helping the Coluccis in their moment of need, he added, was one of the good moments that "helps your job balance itself out."

And it served as a reminder to us all that even in a city as proudly gruff as Philadelphia, in an age when people too often shrug off getting involved, at a time when too many ask, "What's in it for me?" there are still those knights among us who don't hesitate to come to the rescue of perfect strangers simply because it is the right and decent thing to do.

"It shows that there still are good people in this world," a grateful Richard Colucci said.

Responded Pratt as he headed to his next call: "Hey, it's no problem. That's what I do. That's why I'm out here."
unknown member replied:
Thank you James Pratt for being the humble hero that you are!

May we all perform as well as you did when given the opportunity! (I think most members here would....!)
THTDon replied:
An awesome story. For once, a happy ending! emoticonthumb.gifsigdon29yrs.gif
DrHook541 said:
Three cheers for James Pratt!!

In Memory of VA Sue who said:
Sometimes we become angels and are not even aware of it...geez, what a great story. Thats the kind of publicity we need!!
Va Sue emoticonappl.gifemoticonmas5.gif
North County Recovery said:
Truly a story worthy of a HERO status. It is the unselfish act of a single person that has touched the lives of so many. Given the circumstances, I'm not sure who I would of turned to for help, but in fact a local tow operator is a wealth of untapped knowledge.

The fact that he acted so quickly and effectively is truely the show of an Emergency Responder under control. He would be a wonderful candidate for the Medal of Honor. emoticonthumb.gif

emoticonappl.gifemoticonappl.gifemoticonappl.gifKaren from Cali.
(note these replies were selected from many)
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