When truckie James Rundle, 39, noticed tyre tracks veering off the road, he knew something was amiss – what happened next may well have saved a man’s life.
Rundle, who drives for SA transport operation Musico Refrigerated Transport, was travelling down Richardson Road at Lower Light, SA, at around 3:00pm last Thursday, on his way to deliver a truck load of eggs.
As he went around the bend, he saw the tyre tracks and then the car wreck. “My initial thought was ‘oh shit, someone has gone off’. I quite regularly go down that road and have always thought someone is going to go over the side one day, because there’s no indication of a sharp left turn,” he explained.
“I had a look and saw the car. I thought I’ll go and ask my mate who lives around the corner if there’s been any call-outs. It didn’t look like a fresh accident but my gut instinct was to go back just to make sure.”
And thankfully, that instinct was correct. A Ford Kuga had plunged down a 15-metre embankment and into a dry riverbed and a 32-year-old man from Klemzig, SA, was trapped inside.
The man had been there overnight and was unable to call for help as his phone was damaged in the crash.
“I couldn’t get down the embankment straight away – I thought if there is someone trapped, how am I going to get to them,” Rundle recalled.
“Then I heard the faint call-out and had to basically scurry down the embarkment and get to the side of the car, which was half on its side, half on its roof. I slid underneath the car, while at the same time trying to make sure it wasn’t going to fall on me.
“I managed to talk to the bloke and asked if there was anyone else in there with him. The car was wedged between two trees – it took a massive gum tree down. Panelling on the driver’s side was squashed down and basically wedged his feet in the footwell.
Rundle called 000 and put his first aid skills to use while awaiting help.
“He was agitated and wanted to get out of the car, but having done my first aid course, they said when you come across this sort of situation to wait for the paramedics to arrive.
“He was really dehydrated so I got him some water and was trying to stay above ground height so I could see the police too. When I was on phone to the police, it was hard to give an exact location. I only had 10 per cent battery on my phone, and as I finished talking to the police, my phone died. They found it and dispatched people out. It was 20 minutes max before police and paramedics were on the scene.
“I told the guy that the police and ambulance were on their way.”
The man suffered leg injuries and was brought to hospital in a serious but stable condition.
Rundle did his first aid training through St John during his 13-year stint working for Woolworths, with refresher courses undertaken every two years during that time.
He made the switch to truck driving about three years ago and hasn’t looked back. “After I left Woolies, I went for my truck licence the next day,” Rundle said.
“I’m really enjoying it. I love being on the road. I grew up loving trucks and if I see kids on the road, I give them a toot – you’ve got to enjoy what you do and fun while you’re doing it.”
He joined Musico about 18 months ago and drives a 2014 Freightliner Coronado. Musico runs a fleet of six trucks, transporting meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables throughout SA.
Ever so humble in his recent efforts, Rundle doesn’t see himself as a hero. “I just always keep an eye out for anything unusual on the road. I take Richardson Road every now and then, it’s only when I do the egg run. Without the tyre tracks, that crash would’ve been difficult to spot. A lot of people use that road every day, but given the height of a truck, only a truck driver would be able to see it,” he said.
Rundle’s efforts have been widely praised. His boss John Musico described him as “a great person and an excellent employee – a great asset to our company.”
On the Musico Facebook page, the company wrote, “Well done James. Thanks for taking the time to stop and make sure all was ok, you have saved a life no doubt, we’re all proud of you. Yes you are a hero and you deserve all the recognition you get, you always go the extra mile every day for everyone.”
And this isn’t the first time he’s come to the rescue either. Around five or six years ago, he was also a first responder.
“A bloke had hit a powerline pole, one of the big ones. I was at a wrecking yard nearby and saw the powerlines shaking. At first we thought it was the wind but we went over and saw the crash. He had his misses in the car and two kids. The car was already on fire and there was a gas bottle in the car. So we got them out and got the gas bottle well away. He got airlifted to hospital with similar issues to his feet and legs,” said Rundle.
“When these sorts of things happen, the adrenaline kicks in and I just help out when I can.”