By David Tanner, associate editor
If you are hurt or need assistance at roadside, you could only hope for someone like Paul Fredrick to arrive on the scene.
The OOIDA life member from Gatineau, Quebec, has made it a mission in life to be prepared for any situation. He’s trained in CPR. He carries multiple first-aid kits, blankets, tools, chains, jacks and even life jackets. But Paul’s best attributes are his instincts and ability to remain calm during critical moments.
One of those moments happened a few days before Christmas 2011. Paul and his wife Carol were bypassing Indianapolis on the Interstate 465 loop when for some reason he decided to exit at 56th Street. It wasn’t their usual exit, but for some reason, Paul chose that particular time and place to change course.
It turned out to be the right place at the right time for Paul to help someone who was obviously in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Paul and Carol noticed a tan-colored passenger car that was facing the wrong way on a feeder ramp. It appeared to be stopped or traveling very slowly. Suddenly, a black sport-utility vehicle came into view and was barreling straight for the car.
“I said, ‘This is going to be bad,’” Paul recalls. And he was right.
The SUV struck the car head on, and the impact sent the rear of the SUV into the air before it returned to the pavement. The passenger car rolled backward and came to a stop broadside to traffic in its lane. Thankfully, no one else hit it at that point.
Paul, 63, doesn’t look for moments like these, but when they happen, he is ready.
Leaping from his red 2000 Volvo, Paul went quickly to the driver of the SUV, who remarkably did not appear to be injured. She was shaken but was walking and talking. The airbag likely saved her life, Paul says.
As other motorists began to stop at the scene, Paul said he ran to the car and saw flames. At first, Paul could not locate the driver in the crumpled car. The airbag was deployed but the driver seat appeared empty.
He asked onlookers if they’d seen the driver emerge, but they said no. Something compelled Paul to look harder. Still nothing. The flames grew and the heat was intensifying. The car could explode at any moment, he thought, and he heard onlookers yelling.
“They were yelling at me to get away from the car,” he said. “And Carol was in the truck, yelling at me to get away because the truck was close to the fire.”
But when Paul spotted a walker in the back seat of the car, he figured the occupant had to be there. He opened a rear door, entered the vehicle and reached over the seat to check beneath the airbag. His instincts proved to be right.
“He had fallen under the dash and the airbag came over him,” Paul said. He managed to free the man and drag him away from the wreckage.
By that point, the Indiana State Police arrived and began tending to the man, saying he was alive, Paul recalls.
The officers asked Paul to provide a statement about what he had seen and done. After moving his truck away from the vehicles, he reluctantly obliged to give the report. Leaving his name is not part of Paul’s code. He prefers to be an anonymous Good Samaritan. By the stories he tells, Paul has been that many times to many people.
“With everything I’ve done, I’ve never left my name,” he says. But since the police asked, he stayed.
Paul said he believes with all his heart that he is meant to be in those places at those times, and he has a reason for it. Nicknamed “The Kid” when he was a child, Paul says he nearly died in a drowning accident at 7 years old. He is convinced his second chance at life compels him to look out for others.
An avid hunter and fisherman, Paul once got a funny feeling about some hunters he had met prior to heading into the Quebec wilderness. Paul had seen how ill-prepared the men were and decided after a few days that he would check on them. Relying on instincts as to where they were, he found them cold, lost and hungry and helped guide them back to civilization.
While doing paperwork on a deserted highway one time, Paul accidentally sounded his horn. Moments later, a man appeared running toward him on the frozen roadway. The motorist, a father of three, had gone off the icy road not long before Paul had parked. The man’s young family was huddled in the car in the ditch in a nearby laneway, and Paul towed them out.
As he tells his stories, Paul becomes emotional, recalling the possible outcomes for people had he not been there.
“I can’t tell you why it happens. It just does,” he said.
Paul has been trucking full time since Carol retired from teaching in 2005. She is with him on most trips and they are inseparable.
“Paul is my hero,” she said.
Paul is an owner-operator leased to Traveler’s out of Brantford, Ontario. Before that, he drove school buses and coaches. Their son, Steve, is a bus driver.
The Fredricks stack their work schedules from September through June so they can cherish their summers at a lake property they own in Quebec. Family and friends reserve time on the property for camping, fishing and relaxation. It’s their time to rest and recover from the stresses of the road. And just like when he’s on the job, Paul’s off-season requires a lot of preparation.
“We have the biggest barbecues you’ve ever seen,” Paul said. “It goes on every weekend for three months.” LL