BRUNSWICK, Maine — Brunswick police and firefighters put out the call early this week for help identifying a “mystery hero” who saved the life of a young woman trapped in a truck that flipped Monday on Route 1.
The man, who left the scene before rescue workers could ask his name, dug frantically through packed snow in the truck’s cab to reach the young woman, who was not breathing when found. According to Brunswick Deputy Fire Chief Don Koslosky, the man gave rescue personnel a head start that saved her life.
As it turns out, Wayne Waldrop — that hero — had a good reason for leaving the crash scene after his heroic actions Monday.
He and his fiancee, Teresa Jackson, were headed to the Topsham town office to get married.
The marriage was a long time coming, according to Teresa, 41, who said Thursday, “I fell in love with him when I was 10 years old.”
So a short delay — especially to save a life — certainly was worthwhile.
The couple, along with Teresa’s 12-year-old daughter, Tiffany, had just left West Bath District Court with paperwork for their marriage when they passed the truck just seconds after police say it hit a snowbank and landed on its roof, sliding and compacting snow in the cab around the occupants.
The same icy conditions that likely caused the crash added to the challenge of stopping to help.
“Wayne said to stop and I said, ‘I’m trying,’” Teresa said. “But our car was sliding and it was hard to stop. When we finally did, Wayne jumped out and yelled at me to dial 911.”
By that point, the 16-year-old boy who had been driving the truck already was trying to dig the young woman out, and Wayne — a retired medic with the U.S. Army Special Forces who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — joined him.
“Wayne told me she was unresponsive, and he said he dug her face out just so that she could breathe,” Teresa said.
After about five minutes of digging, according to police, a West Bath first responder arrived and continued the extrication. Brunswick police and Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department deputies, firefighters and Bath Rescue workers soon joined the emergency response.
Teresa stayed with the young man in the back of an ambulance, holding his hand, until the young woman was extricated and taken to Maine Medical Center. She was released later on Monday.
“He asked to use my cell phone and he called his mom,” Teresa said of the teen driver. But according to the young man’s mother, Shelly Wilson, Teresa was heroic herself.
On Wednesday night, Wilson called the couple to thank them for all they did.
“I said, ‘Thank you for stepping up and into the mother role,’” Shelly Wilson said Thursday. “She kept him calm, and called the hospital to make sure I was going to be there [when he arrived]. She showed a lot of concern.”
“I was very impressed with her, to be honest,” Wayne said of his new wife. “She totally kept her head, and kept him calm.”
With medical and police rescuers on hand, Wayne, Teresa and Tiffany hurried on their way. Teresa took Tiffany to school, Wayne said, and “I came home, stood in the shower for 45 minutes to thaw out, and went on to say ‘I do.’ Then I went to work and she went to work.’”
“At first we were going to go to the church with my children,” Teresa said, laughing. “Then … it was turning into this huge event, so we just said, ‘OK, we’re not going to say anything, we’re just going to do it.’ Even my daughter didn’t make it.”
It was short and simple, and the couple didn’t even get pictures, although the notary at the Topsham town office “said she’d do it again for free if we want to get dressed up. I didn’t even have a bouquet. But our main thing was just getting married. I fell in love with him when I was 10 years old.”
“She was my first love,” Wayne said. “She’s a great woman — she really is. I tell her every day I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve her.”
The two grew up together in South Carolina, then went their separate ways. Decades later — with seven children between them — they reconnected and only spoke by phone.
That’s how Wayne asked Teresa to marry him. Without hesitation, she said, “yes.”
Days after Wayne moved to Maine on Valentine’s Day, Teresa’s oldest son was helping him plan an official proposal. He called her one Friday night and asked if she’d like to go out for ice cream. They headed to downtown Brunswick, near Gelato Fiasco, but then passed it and walked into Little Tokyo, one of Teresa’s favorite restaurants.
“I noticed everyone was grinning at us,” she said. “He said, ‘Do you know how to use chopsticks?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, you can’t eat sushi without chopsticks.’”
Then the waitress brought them over, “and mine were tied in the middle with a little ring,” Teresa said.
A day or two after Monday’s crash, Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department officers and Brunswick Police called Teresa and Wayne, having tracked them down through the cell phone they used to call 911.
Then on Wednesday, they received a call from Shelly Wilson, who informed them the young woman was fine — contrary to what Wayne initially was told, he said, by the hospital.
Based on misinformation he received about the woman’s condition, Wayne thought the rescue effort had come up short.
“That tore Wayne up,” Teresa said. “He was like, ‘She was my responsibility.’ … That was hard, and then to find out she was OK — we were so happy.”
“I honestly expected the outcome to be worse,” Wayne said. “I’m very grateful the young lady is OK.”
Koslosky said Thursday that he plans to call Wayne and thank him for his efforts.
Those four or five minutes, Koslosky said, saved the woman’s life, because when the first responder from the West Bath Fire Department arrived and finished digging the woman out, he found that she wasn’t breathing.
“I think it should be known that this woman’s life could have been taken without the quick action this guy took,” Koslosky said. “He was truly a hero in our eyes and it should be noted.”
Wayne, though, said he firmly believes in karma.
“Her being OK is thanks enough,” he said. “I hope if something were to happen to my wife or the kids, someone would do this for them.”
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