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February 16, 2023

Questioning Attitude Leads Texas Transmission Line Team to Roadside Rescue

At AEP, we speak often the words “Have a questioning attitude.” Supervisor Victor Rodriguez's team in Texas might offer more: “Have a questioning attitude, especially when others don’t.”

You couldn’t blame Rodriguez and his Uvalde-based team for tweaking that core belief just a little, after coming across an accident scene on their way to the day’s jobsite on Jan. 26.  The crew of four (Rodriguez and line mechanics Jacob Castillon, Beto Aguilar and Ryan Parks) were 25 miles southeast of Uvalde, headed to Pearsall, when they came upon an overturned pickup truck. It was lying on its side after apparently rolling and was up against a fence, roughly 30 feet off Highway 140, with no signs of any activity around it. 

That questioning mindset didn’t take long to set in for the crew. It could have been there for days. Perhaps this accident happened days ago and a wrecker hadn’t showed up yet. Maybe it was simply an abandoned vehicle. These thoughts came and went, replaced by “something’s not right.”

So they stopped.

What struck Rodriguez as curious is the handful of vehicles that passed him heading the other direction as his team approached the scene. They obviously saw the same scene. And they obviously didn’t stop.

“It is part of who we are, to have a questioning attitude, and to recognize when things don’t look right,” said Rodriguez. “What if a loved one was inside, a friend, someone’s son or daughter? You can’t help but think those thoughts.”

Turns out, there was someone inside. After pulling off the road and cautiously approaching the badly damaged truck, a team member banged on the roof and called out to anyone inside. Hearing nothing, the team was able to get a look inside and found a woman, still conscious and unable to free herself from her seatbelt. Rodriguez and crew safely broke through the windshield, cut the seatbelts and pulled her from the cab. They did so with a sense of urgency, not fully knowing her condition and concerned about potential fire.

She was obviously distraught and quite shook up, Rodriguez said, but was otherwise unharmed. The woman told the line team that she suffered a flat and ended up losing control of the truck, and rolled it up against the fence.  She said the accident happened perhaps 20 minutes before the TFS team arrived, and she had actually began to give up hope that someone would stop. She had been honking the truck horn and screaming for help, but eventually stopped as vehicle after vehicle passed by.

“Something like this is really an eye opener, to what could have been. You never know what you’re facing until you take a closer, careful look,” Rodriguez said, adding that the team stayed with the woman until authorities arrived, and offered her assistance while waiting. After they left, Rodriguez said the “lessons learned” mindset followed, and the team performed a full equipment check, especially their vehicles’ tires. Reflecting on the morning’s event later, he added that you can’t help but think how long she could have been trapped in the truck if, say, his team’s work took them in a different direction that morning.

The fact her ordeal ended when an AEP vehicle drove by isn’t a surprise, noted Transmission Field Services West Vice President Dan Boezio. “This just shows what outstanding people we have out there every day, and how much pride they take in their communities,” he said. “Victor’s team demonstrates how very seriously we bring Zero Harm into everything we do, and how being your brother’s and sister’s keeper clearly extends into everyone we encounter.”

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