News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Lending a hand in a moment of need

On January 3 at about 7:30 p.m., during a winter storm, Jefferson County Reserve Deputy Mark Foster received a 911 call from dispatch for a motor assist in Camp Sherman at the “Four Corners” stop sign. A large semitruck had slid off the road into deep snow at the stop sign, blocking one lane.

Why and how did it get there?

Having passed through Sisters, the semi was on Highway 20 en route to Corvallis to deliver cargo. Santiam Pass was closed. Nearing the Camp Sherman Road junction, the driver had received an erroneous GPS notice to detour to Camp Sherman for an alternative route over Santiam Pass. Being first-time visitors to Central Oregon from the Deep South, the driver and passenger — two young women — were quite unfamiliar with Oregon’s routes, mountain passes, winter snow storms, avalanches, and potentially lengthy pass closures.

Traveling through the dark forest on the Camp Sherman road during a windy, swirling snowstorm, the driver finally reached the stop sign — and got stuck.

After calling 911, she called several nearby towing companies for assistance; unfortunately, no one was available to help them that night due to other stranded motorist 911 calls.

What the stranded driver and passenger didn’t know then was that, in Camp Sherman, the best place to get a cell signal is precisely at the Four Corners stop sign area, known locally as the “cell phone booth.” They had unknowingly picked the perfect spot to become disabled and successfully reach 911 as well as their own trucking company dispatch.

Responding to the call, Mark Foster set out traffic cones to mark the hazard spot. By then, in addition to being stuck in deep snow, the truck had completely run out of diesel fuel and also had an untimely battery failure.

The women had started walking toward Highway 20 to seek help. Finding no one in the truck, Mark proceeded to look for the driver. He found the women walking on the road. They spotted the sheriff’s truck with flashing lights and, relieved, turned and walked toward it. They told Mark of their predicament.

Since the semi could not produce heat for the sleep quarters cab due to an empty fuel tank, Mark’s plan was to transport the women to the Best Western Ponderosa Lodge in Sisters for overnight lodging. Before heading to Sisters, Mark stopped to pick me up at my daughter’s home to accompany him.

Along the route, the young women excitedly called their worried moms back home in the Deep South, retelling their unfolding story play by play. We could hear the voices of their grateful moms thanking us.

In Sisters, we bought the women dinner and paid for their lodging at the Best Western. We also bought them a U.S. Rand McNally Road Map and an Oregon road map for handy and much-needed use. They greatly appreciated all of our assistance and continually addressed “Mr. Mark” as their guardian angel.

The next morning, on January 4, Mark brought the driver and passenger back to Camp Sherman along with two 40-pound diesel tanks of fuel in an attempt to spark the engine to start. Two tanks were not enough, so back to Sisters he went for more fuel.

After returning to the Four Corners with fuel, Mark drove to House on Metolius to exchange his truck for Big Blue — the resort’s snow plow — as a backup if needed at the Four Corners.

By then, Davis Towing had arrived on the scene. Inch by inch, creaking all the way, the large semi was successfully hauled out of the snow onto the road.

During the tow truck operation, I enjoyed spending time and talking with Jacquela, 30, the semi driver; and Rochelle, 25, the passenger and soon-to-be semitruck driver. Throughout their entire winter storm rescue event, Jacquela and Rochelle both had maintained a positive attitude, displayed humor, were greatly appreciative for all of the assistance received, and were absolutely delightful to get to know.

It is evident to me that this event was not a coincidence of random events, but rather God’s hand of impeccable timing and detailed organization for a rescue from a humble Camp Sherman man whose heart just keeps on giving and joyously serving his community.

We have corresponded since their departure, and Jacquela and Rochelle have said that they plan to return to Camp Sherman in the summer and rent a cabin.

Happy journey and return, friends!

 

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