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Plow Driver Hailed for Action

Brandon Irwin finally got some sleep over the weekend. But not after a couple weeks he’ll likely never forget – and that he hopes will be a lesson for his three young sons.Irwin, just eight months on the job, and his colleagues at Boone County Public Works have spent nearly the past two weeks pre-treating, plowing and re-plowing county roads. And then had to do it all over again just a few days later.”Well it was fun for the first ten minutes,” he said with a laugh. “Then it was hard to describe…it was horrible.”On Thursday, February 21, Irwin was heading back to get more salt supplies from the county barn off Highway 63. He had run into trouble as the snow came down at a rate of about two inches per hour and cars piled up across the road near Mill Creek Elementary on Nifong Boulevard.Irwin’s assigned route is north of Columbia, near Midway. But on that Thursday, he was forced to find an alternative way to get there because of the backup near Scott Boulevard. As he turned around and travel back toward Highway 63 on Nifong, he dodged stranded cars and their owners wandering in the snowy mess.”You’ve got ten inches of snow across [the road] and you’ve got people just literally walking down the roads, people who have left their cars wherever they got stuck,” he described.In the stillness, though, his plow was stopped by the screech of an ambulance. As it approached the intersection of Nifong and Buttonwood, the ambulance slid and turned. Its driver jumped out, frantically waving his arms and yelling for help. Irwin stopped and got out, as the driver described a medical emergency happening in the back of the vehicle.”He said he needs to get to University Hospital,” Irwin said. “You could just tell by the look in his face and how he was presenting himself hat he needed to get there now.”Without a second thought, Irwin jumped back into his rig and sped off – the ambulance following behind.”Cars were just lined up [in the lanes], some sideways,” he said. “So, I just kind of weaved my way in and out until I was able to get over…and the ambulance just stuck behind me and I was blaring my horn the whole time.”Irwin drove up over a curb onto Providence, still swerving to avoid the people and the cars littered across all lanes of the roads. During his two-and-a-half mile detour to University Hospital, his blades threw snow on stranded drivers and cut across a sidewalk at the corner of Stadium and Providence – all at speeds near 50 mph in whiteout conditions.”We got [near the hospital] and the ambulance driver kind of looked at me and he just threw his thumbs up,” said Irwin, of his last glimpse of the ambulance in an emergency itself. “I don’t want to say I was scared, but it was scary – driving that fast with that much snow.”Despite his detour and adrenaline rush, Irwin radioed back to his boss to check in. He wouldn’t tell anyone else about his good deed until he got home. His wife was so impressed, she sat down his three sons – ages 3, 5 and 6 – to explain what their father did was something to be proud of.”I just did my job,” he said. “If it wasn’t for those guys in the back of that ambulance – they’re the ones who kept him alive and saved his life. I just plowed a road.”Irwin may never meet the man whose life depended on those doctors and his driving. But, when he found out the next day that the man had survived against the odds, he breathed a sigh of relief.”Anything I might have done wrong or felt guilty about, like covering someone up with snow, it just – it was worth whatever hard feelings someone might have had against me because of him.”Brandon Irwin has already been recognized of his quick thinking by the Boone County Commission. Public Works will also present him with a proclamation. But he said he did not do anything any of the other drivers would not have done.

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