Trust fund established for wounded good Samaritan trucker

| 9/21/2006

A couple who operates a small trucking company in Huntington, WV, has set up a fund to help a good Samaritan trucker who was partially paralyzed by a gunshot wound.

The trucker – 49-year-old Randy Tomblin – was shot in the back and robbed when he stopped to help what appeared to be a stranded motorist on Interstate 64 west of Huntington on Sept. 3.

Tomblin is now at a rehabilitation center in Huntington with a bullet wedged between his spine and pelvis. Doctors say it can’t be safely removed.

Huntington residents Norma and Jack Irwin, who operate Refrigerated Express, heard of Tomblin’s plight and decided to help, even though they didn’t know him.

They began visiting him at the rehab center, then worked with a bank to set up a bank-operated trust fund to help defray medical bills.

Anyone who wants to contribute to the fund for Tomblin can stop at any BB&T Bank and drop off a donation in his name. There are about 1,400 branches located throughout the southeast.

Donations can also be mailed to:

Randy Tomblin Fund
c/o Samantha Morris
BB&T Bank
P.O. Box 7938
Huntington, WV 25779

There’s more to this story. There’s a reason behind this good Samaritan’s commitment to helping people, and it’s steeped in tragedy – something that’s not uncommon in Tomblin’s past.

Longtime Land Line readers may remember Randy. He’s a former OOIDA member whose story appeared in the March 1999 issue of Land Line. In January of that year, he found out how quickly strangers step up to help, and how some don’t seem to care at all.

Tomblin was driving a tanker for Triad Transport, a McAllister, OK, company. Hauling a load of acid, he was in Georgia on Jan. 27, when his pager and Qualcomm went crazy. It was an urgent message that turned out to be one every driver dreads. His wife was trying to reach him to tell him his 14-year-old son had collapsed at school and died of a sudden, unpredicted heart failure.

He pulled off Interstate 75 at exit 133 and into the Flying J at Resaca, GA, but there was no place to park. He pulled up beside the scale, parked and ran inside to find a phone. When he phoned his home in Lucasville, OH, his wife, Lynn, answered the phone. Randy could tell from the anguish in her voice “something awful had happened.”

While he pleaded with his wife to tell him what happened, another driver noticed his distress. Although Randy had never met him before, the driver got him a cup of coffee and brought it to him in an effort to comfort him. Randy tried to calm himself and assured Lynn he would somehow catch a flight home. The nearest connection would be to fly out of Chattanooga.

He was trying to make a connection when he overheard a page saying the truck stop was going to tow the Triad truck. He hung up and frantically went to the fuel desk and identified himself as the Triad driver and said he was sorry but there was an emergency, a death in the family, and he was trying to find out more.

He said the fuel desk manager, a man named Darrell Longmeier, told him, “I don’t care. We’re towing your truck if you don’t move it now.”

Randy tried to explain that he had to use the phone, to talk to his wife and find out what happened and make arrangements to get home. Longmeier didn’t seem to be at all concerned.

“He told me it was out of his hands and up to security,” said Randy. “He just said, ‘We are gonna tow it if you don’t move it, now.’”

There was no offer to find him a place to park, no offer of assistance. Longmeier told him to leave. Randy was shocked. Words were exchanged and in a state of panic and disbelief, Randy swore at the man behind the fuel desk.

“I had the cup of coffee in my hand and I threw it at him and left. I got in my truck and drove across the street to the CB shop,” Randy said. “I had to find a place to park and get to a phone.”

At the CB shop, it was a different story. The owner of the place, a hospitable man, stopped everything to be of assistance.

“The people at the shop were unbelievable,” Randy said. “I told them what was happening and right away, they let me use their business phone to call my wife.”

From the CB shop, Randy called his wife back, and was stunned when she told him about his son’s death. Grief-stricken, he tried again to make connections to fly home. He found out it was too late to catch a plane out of Chattanooga. He had just missed the last flight by minutes, minutes wasted by the fracas at the truck stop. Randy Tomblin climbed in his truck and drove a very long 500 miles home.

On Feb. 1, he and Lynn laid their young son to rest. The truck stop’s manager, Donnie Sims, was apologetic and told Land Line it was an unfortunate incident.

– By Reed Black and Sandi Soendker