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One big hero
|Tustin Mains, 6, is credited with helping to save his father's life after Phillip Mains passed out due to a diabetic episode while driving his children home from supper Sunday evening. Tustin jumped onto his father's lap and drove the vehicle from near the Platte River Mall past Cody Park before a police officer arrived to perform some heroics of his own.
By Mark Young
Published: Thursday, May 21, 2009 4:14 AM CDT
Updated Sunday, May 24, 2009 3:18 AM CDT
The North Platte Telegraph
A quick-thinking North Platte 6-year-old is credited with helping to save his dad's life after he noticed that his father, Phillip Mains, had passed out while driving due to a diabetic episode on Sunday evening.
Tustin Mains, a local kindergartner, reacted quickly from the backseat, jumping between the two front seats of the vehicle to grab the steering wheel of his father's Chevy Avalanche and climbing atop his father's lap in order to see out of the window.
According to Phillip, he took his two sons, Tustin and his 3-year-old brother, to Whiskey Creek for supper on Sunday evening and it was on the way back that Phillip's blood sugar dropped, sending him into unconsciousness.
"I remember backing out and circling around the road to the stoplight and I remember getting up to about the mall," said Phillip. "That was at about 6:45. The next thing I remember was waking up to the officers and paramedics and it was 8:15."
Witnesses reported to police that they observed a young boy driving a vehicle and that it appeared an adult male was passed out at the wheel. Phillip said he was told that other drivers got behind and in front of his vehicle with their emergency blinkers flashing while Tustin manhandled the vehicle through town.
Tustin drove the vehicle from about the time his dad passed out by the mall all the way past Cody Park, turned the truck around once he had found himself in unfamiliar territory and was on his way back into town at the North River Bridge when North Platte Police Officer Roger Freeze made contact with the vehicle.
Phillip said that thankfully his foot had slipped from the accelerator, but the police report indicates that the vehicle was still going between 10-15 miles per hour while idling in gear. Freeze exited his patrol car and chased the vehicle on foot, catching up to it after about a block's foot pursuit.
Freeze ran up to the driver's side door and reached for the handle, but the door was locked. Fortunately, Phillip had rolled down his window and Freeze was able to reach into the vehicle and throw it into park, bringing the Chevy Avalanche, Tustin, his 3-year-old brother and his unconscious father to a halt.
"Investigator Freeze's quick action possibly averted tragedy," said North Platte Police Chief Martin Gutschenritter. "I will be issuing him a departmental citation for his quick, professional action on this case. That is also a very special young man. He was able to take quick action when his dad was incapacitated and we are very proud of him too."
Phillip also credited Freeze for helping to what could have been "much worse," said Phillip.
"I just want to thank everybody from the people who saw it and called it in to those who helped out by driving behind Tustin with their hazards, but especially Officer Freeze," he said. "To chase down a moving vehicle and get it stopped the way he did took a lot of nerve and it weren't for him, things could have turned out much worse."
Tustin managed to do a pretty good job of driving the Avalanche. Phillip said there wasn't any significant damage to the vehicle and it appeared the only damage was a scrape that occurred when Tustin brushed the side of the bridge after he turned the vehicle around.
Phillip believes that Tustin was just trying to get home that evening and when he went past Cody Park got scared and turned the vehicle around to find more familiar territory. Tustin said the whole experience was pretty scary.
"I saw my dad fall asleep and I climbed over the seat and got on my dad's lap," said Tustin. "I was scared."
Tustin said he was scared when he saw his dad "fall asleep," he was scared when he was driving and he was even scared when Freeze suddenly appeared at his window. But when the truck finally came to a halt?
"I was just happy," he said.