During  August 2018,  while in the course of his shift as a heavy-vehicle recovery driver, 34 yr. old, Ian Wallace,  who works for R. D. Avery Recovery of Romsey, Hampshire, was despatched at approximately 11:00 am  to attend and recover a broken-down, 44-ton articulated vehicle.

He arrived at the scene at the junction of the A34 and A 303 to find the vehicle totally blocking the exit road.  He met the Man service technician who he knew as John and who was already on-scene and attending the initial breakdown of the vehicle with his technical service van; however, the breakdown was a major component failure, and it was necessary to have the vehicle towed to the workshops for repair.   While waiting for the heavy-recovery vehicle to arrive, John started making the necessary preparations that are required to make the vehicle ready for towing. He had removed the drive shaft and had lifted it into his van.

When he arrived, Ian manoeuvred his recovery vehicle into position to enable him to lift the front of the truck which was ready to tow. He connected the necessary airlines in from the recovery vehicle to the casualty vehicle’s braking system.   Because of the dangerous position they were in with trucks and cars passing only inches away at speeds up to 70 mph, John said, “Let’s get out of here!  Don’t worry about lights on the trailer; I will follow you back to the workshops with my emergency lights on.”

They got underway and proceeded along the A34 southbound.  Because of the extreme length of the recovery vehicle towing the articulated vehicle, Ian decided to pull into the service truck area at Sutton Scotney anyway to put on the lights.  On arrival at the services, Ian got out and walked to the rear of the vehicle with his light board and cable over where John was parked in his van with the engine running and all the emergency lights on.  Without looking up, Ian called out to John, “Where do you want me to put this in the lot when we get to your garage?”   There was no reply. He looked up and noticed John was slumped over the wheel. He shouted out, “JOHN!“  There was no reply; so concerned, he ran up to the van not knowing what was wrong.   His first thoughts were, “Was the handbrake on?”  “Was it in gear?”  He opened the driver’s door and turned the engine off and placed the vehicle in gear.

He raised John’s head off the steering wheel as he took his last gasp of air before he stopped breathing!   He shouted to the driver of the truck he was towing, “CALL AN AMBULANCE! HE’S GONE!”  The driver immediately did that, but at that time, did not come over to see what was happening.

Ian pulled John out of his van onto the tarmac.  (He was not the smallest of people.) He laid him on his back and began CPR.  It was something that just came to Ian after seeing it on TV.  John was turning greyer and greyer as several onlookers had gathered.  The emergency services were now on the speaker phone talking him through the CPR procedure.  This went on for seven and a half minutes until the ambulance arrived shortly followed by the air ambulance. They got the defibrillator and shocked him. They asked Ian to carry on with the compressions until the next shock. They shocked again and again, and then John resuscitated after 10 minutes since Ian had started CPR.

John was transported to the hospital and placed into an induced coma for the next 10 days.   Ian kept in touch with John’s company to check on his progress. It was not looking good, but then on day 11, Ian received a phone call saying that John had come out of the coma and was responding well–even sitting up, eating, and drinking!  Ian was shocked and relieved that John was going to be okay.

Ian had occasion to tow another vehicle into the same Man dealership a few weeks later only to be informed that John was back at work!   Ian was in disbelief.  Wow!  It seemed much too early, but there John was!  Ian went into the workshops to see him, and the first thing John said was ”Ian, you broke my ribs!!“  John was laughing at the time, so after they both embraced and shook each other’s hands.  Ian replied, ” No Problem, Any Time!”

The only effect John has from his ordeal is a loss of a few weeks’ memory which proves to Ian that miracles can and do happen!  At the time of the incident, Ian had never had any first aid training and could not believe that he saved a man’s life!    He has since taken first aid training and fully believes everyone should do a course in basic First Aid.  Here is a hero for you—Ian Wallace.

John Copeland Background Info:

He was born in the UK in 1946 and has been in the towing and recovery industry for 58 years along with his wife, Aileen, and his sons, Matthew and Graham. He established one of the largest towing and recovery operations in south of England, operating over 100 vehicles out of 5 locations.

He is currently involved in organizing and presenting numerous recovery and rescue demonstrations to the industry, fire and police authorities and the general public. He is strongly committed to raising the public awareness of “Slow Down Move Over” and the dangers that the recovery operators face at the roadside. He is also active in several trade councils working on raising of standards of training, safety, and public perception of the towing and recovery industry.

Concerning honors: in 2019, he was inducted into the Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame in Chattanooga.  In 2013, He received a Fellowship from the Institute of Vehicle Recovery for services to the Recovery Training programs.  Also, in 2013, he received the UK Towing and Recovery Industry Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding services to the recovery industry.  In 2007, he received an honorary lifetime membership to the Association of Vehicle Recovery Operators, for services rendered to the association.

Tow Professional– “A story will soon follow on this remarkable man, John Copeland.”