Good Samaritan trucker's home, belongings destroyed in blaze

| 3/6/2007

No matter what life throws at him, Randy Tomblin just wants things to get better.

And he's convinced they will - eventually.

Randy - a former OOIDA member who unwittingly gained some public attention when he was shot by people he'd pulled over to help - suffered yet another tragic event when his Huntington, WV, home burned to the ground on Valentine's Day.

"I feel like I'm taking five steps backward and one forward," he told Land Line.

The fire broke out after Tomblin took his wife, Lynn, and their grandson out to eat waffles. Investigators told Randy the fire started when a floor furnace overheated and set the two-story brick home ablaze, destroying nearly everything the family owned except a few pictures and some of their clothes.

To make matters worse, a firefighter was injured when he fell through the second floor.

"Once it hit the walls, it was all over with," Randy said of the fire.

Randy made national news Sept. 3, 2006, when he pulled his rig over at about 3 a.m. to help a stranded motorist on Interstate 64 west of Huntington.

As Randy prepared to change a tire for a woman standing on the highway's shoulder, a man pounced out of the car and hit Randy in the head with a gun.

Randy tried to stand up as he felt the pair fumbling through his pockets, and the male shot him in his back, close enough to his spine that doctors later decided not to remove the bullet.

Unfortunately, neither of Randy's recent tragedies matches the emotion he feels when he thinks about the event that prompted Land Line's first story about him eight years ago.

In January 1999, Randy pulled over at a Flying J in Resaca, GA, to respond to a frantic pager message from his wife.

Randy pulled up beside a scale and parked to run inside and find a phone to call his wife.

As he was trying to get Lynn to tell him what happened over the phone, he was standing inside the Flying J and another driver took him a cup of coffee in an effort to comfort him.

Randy told his wife he'd fly back home to Lucasville, OH, by way of Chattanooga, and was making those arrangements when a page inside the truck stop said Randy's Triad Transport truck and its load of acid would be towed.

Randy approached Darrell Longmeier, fuel desk manager, said he was sorry about his parked truck and mentioned that he was trying to find out more about a family emergency.

Randy said Longmeier told him, "I don't care. We're towing your truck if you don't move it now."

An argument ensued and Randy admitted he threw a cup of coffee at Longmeier before leaving and heading across the street to call from a nearby CB shop. From the CB shop, Lynn told him the terrible news - the couple's 14-year-old son had collapsed and died at school from heart failure.

Randy then found out he'd missed the last flight out of Chattanooga by minutes, time he believed was wasted during the argument and while driving across the street to call home.

He then climbed into his truck and drove 500 miles home to bury his son on Feb. 1, 1999.

Truck stop manager Donnie Sims was apologetic and characterized the events to Land Line as an "unfortunate incident."

In a recent telephone interview, Randy said he's doing daily rehabilitation exercises to rebuild strength in his back and legs, strength he lost following the robber and shooting in September.

"The good thing is my body is accepting the bullet and has started building gristle around it as protection," Tomblin said.

Donations can be mailed to the Tomblin family at:

??????????? Randy Tomblin Fund

??????????? c/o Samantha Morris

??????????? BB&T Bank

??????????? PO Box 7938

??????????? Huntington, WV 25779

"I'm not looking for any handouts but if anybody did want to donate money, they can," he said. "My wife and me are still trying to make ends meet with all these doctors and stuff."

Randy said he wanted to thank OOIDA members and other truckers who responded to previous Land Line articles about his incident last September.

"They know who they are," Tomblin said.

Meanwhile, the third-generation trucker said he's doing his part to get back to work.

"I just want to get back on the road," Randy said. "That's been my goal - to get back to work so I can get my finances back in order and my family back in order where it should be."

- By Charlie Morasch, staff writer