Kent-Ionia Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class

UAW members’ quick reaction prevents tragedy

TOLEDO, OH August 25, 2015– What could have been a very tragic situation turned into an opportunity for a group of northern Ohio union members to display their super-hero abilities.

Last Friday, 48 members of UAW Local 12 were on a chartered bus coming from Columbus where they had spent the day protesting Ohio’s proposed right-to-work legislation. As they were driving through Upper Sandusky on US 23 Friday afternoon, the bus driver suffered a serious medical emergency.

Photo courtesy Albert Waganfeald

Photo courtesy Albert Waganfeald

A number of members leaped into action to stop the bus and resuscitate the driver. While no other vehicles were hit, the bus at one point crossed the median and nearly hit a police cruiser.

From ABC-13 Toledo Action News:

“It was the craziest thing I experienced in all my life. I was terrified but at the same time I have training in CPR so i just wanted to help,” said Kimberly Wells, an X-ray technician at Mercy St. Vincent. Wells was also able to help the bus come to a stop by aiding with the brakes.

Many are calling several on the bus heroes.

“I’m not a hero, I just seen a situation going on and I helped,” said Local 12’s Cap Chairman Ronald Birchfield. “I ran up front and I had to try and place my foot in between the driver’s legs in order to get my foot on the brake to stop the bus to avoid any other danger.”

“During it was almost like a scary movie; the bus was just swerving from side of the road to side of the road,” said Denise Cook, another St. V’s worker who is also a UAW Executive Board Member. “Some people rushed up to brake the bus and someone took over the steering and someone was leaning over him trying to shut the bus off.”

The Blue Lakes charter bus hit several sign posts, crossed the median before it finally stopped. The bus hit a metal guard rail just feet from a ravine.

“Whoever did that and got the bus stopped was like our lifesaver because we were inches from a ditch,” said Briana Funches, another who helped administer CPR.

Three women who work at Mercy St. V’s were all on the bus and all are CPR certified. Each took turns with compressions until help arrived.

They say the unnamed driver was blue and unconscious.

Those women say the driver was going in-and-out of consciousness during CPR. He was flown to a Toledo hospital. His condition is unknown.

Wyandot County Sheriff Michael Hetzel stated in a media release that the passengers on the bus saved any further injury by immediately taking control of the bus and brought it to a stop.

The bus was stopped but still in gear. Sheriff Hetzel also states that Deputy Yeater who had passed the bus during that time, entered the us and hit the master kill switch to stop the bus completely, allowing passengers to administer CPR until EMS arrived on scene.

Authorities at this point believe the driver suffered a heart attack.

Cook, Local 12’s recording secretary, told the Toledo Blade she’s grateful for her brothers’ and sisters’ quick thinking.

“We were either going into oncoming traffic or over that 30-foot ravine. Ten more seconds, and we would have been down there,” she said. “We are so many times blessed today.”


This entry was posted on August 25, 2015 by in Union Heroes and tagged , .

Kent-Ionia Labor Council

The Kent-Ionia Labor Council, AFL-CIO is a coalition of west Michigan labor unions in Kent and Ionia Counties, based in Grand Rapids.

Address, phone, email

918 Benjamin NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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