February 21, 2013

Good Samaritans help Wichitans get out of snow jams

Thank goodness for helping hands.

Thank goodness for helping hands.

With a double-digit snowfall burying the area, Good Samaritans were out in force Thursday shoveling driveways and sidewalks and pushing, pulling or digging out stuck vehicles.

Except for the unfortunate incident of a man getting his vehicle stolen after he stopped to help two women, it generally worked out well for everyone.

“People are willing to go out and help you,” said Maria Bias, who was on the receiving end of much-needed help. “That’s nice.”

Two neighbors came to Travis Grover’s rescue after his rear-wheeled pickup got stuck Thursday morning in his cul-de-sac near Heights High School.

Grover knew he had to get to work. He’s a physical education teacher at Heartspring, a residential school that serves children with special needs.

Closing isn’t an option. Forty-eight children live at the school.

“It’s kind of important that staff gets here,” Grover said.

After getting up early to shovel a path to get out of his driveway, he got stuck in the cul-de-sac. That’s when two neighbors, Jeremy Dawson and Dustin Bishop, came to the rescue.

“They told me I was crazy for going to work,” Grover said, “but they knew why I had to get there.”

The weather kept Bishop home, but Dawson had managed to reach his job in a front-wheel car – taking three times as long as the normal 15-minute trip – only to arrive and learn his business was closed for the day.

He returned home and was soon helping Grover.

“We’re pretty good neighbors,” Dawson said.

Grover, Dawson and Bishop shoveled away at the snow. The four 6-pound bags of sand in the pickup’s bed weren’t enough.

So Dawson came up with the idea to put the snow to good use: shovel it into the bed to give the pickup more traction.

Grover crawled his pickup out of the cul-de-sac but got stuck again. Not too bad this time. He shoveled his way out and was on his way to Heartspring, on East 29th Street North between Webb and Rock roads.

“From start to finish, it was a 21/2-hour venture,” Grover said. “I couldn’t have done it without their help.”

Digging with ice scraper

Bias never got a chance to thank the two employees from a Sonic who came to her rescue Thursday morning.

A division supervisor for the city, Bias was confident that her big SUV would get her to City Hall from her home near 21st and Hillside.

But she was 11/2 blocks from home when her vehicle got stuck at Carmen and 21st. She was armed with only a long-handled ice scraper for digging. Not much help.

As Bias was getting into her car to warm up, two young men suddenly approached and asked if they could help. Her first thought was that they were up to no good.

“I looked up and there they were,” Bias said. “Then I thought they couldn’t steal my car because it wasn’t going anywhere.”

They pushed her onto 21st Street.

She waved a thank-you and honked her horn as she pulled away.

Things didn’t turn out so well for a 27-year-old man who stopped Wednesday night to help two women with a car that initially appeared to be disabled. He ended up losing his car and getting struck in the process, Wichita police said Thursday.

The man was on his way to a convenience store around 11:40 p.m. when he saw a car that appeared to be stuck at 23rd Street North and Arkansas, Lt. Doug Nolte said.

But while he was trying to help, one of the women got into his 2002 white Jeep Grand Cherokee, with an Oklahoma tag, and drove off, striking him and knocking him down but not seriously injuring him. The other woman drove away in the suspects’ vehicle, described as a black Chevrolet Monte Carlo with a Dallas Cowboys vanity tag on the front.

Police patrol cars have low clearance levels, and some became stuck early Thursday while responding to calls for help.

But residents were quick to appear with snow shovels to free patrol cars and get the officers on their way.

A neighborly gesture

Jana Doran doesn’t even know the names of her neighbors. They moved in several months ago, and they’d merely exchanged pleasantries when they crossed paths at their south Wichita duplex.

“For the most part, I don’t even see them,” Doran said.

But come Thursday morning, the young couple was shoveling Doran’s sidewalk near the Dog ‘N Shake on South Seneca. They then cleared her driveway.

“It’s not a short one, either,” Doran said of her driveway, which is at least 25 feet long.

Doran said she was touched by the kindness from her neighbors.

“They did mine before they even did theirs,” she said. “It was just a wonderful surprise.”

As a gesture of appreciation, she took over the ingredients for s’mores so the couple’s two children could have a treat after they were finished playing in the snow.

Sometimes the rescue required a growing team effort of Good Samaritans.

That was the case for Jason Earl, who got stuck about noon Thursday in the 700 block of West Douglas.

First, one man came with a shovel and started digging. That was followed by three teenagers helping to push. Still stuck.

Finally, two men in a 4x4 pickup used a tow rope to pull Earl’s car out.

“I didn’t even get a chance to get their names or to say thank you,” Earl wrote in an e-mail, “but it was very nice of them.”

Contributing: Tim Potter and Stan Finger of The Eagle.

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