LOCAL NEWS

Utah man spots wrecked tanker during blizzard, rescues driver near Strawberry Reservoir

Jan 16, 2024, 11:51 AM | Updated: 11:58 am

WASATCH COUNTY — In the middle of white-out, blizzard conditions near Strawberry Reservoir Friday, a driver who pulled off the road spotted an overturned semitruck in the distance, helped that driver out of the wrecked semi and drove him to warmth and safety on a snowmobile.

At around 4:30 p.m., Tyler Mahoney was on U.S. Highway 40 heading to a cabin when blowing snow reduced traffic to a crawl and visibility to less than 15 feet.

“I’ve been in bad driving conditions before but nothing like this,” Mahoney told KSL TV in an interview Monday. “We came across dozens and dozens of people who had slid off of the side of the road because you just couldn’t see it.”

At around milepost 50 and the Soldier Creek turnoff, Mahoney said he turned off to a parking lot.

“I was ahead of my dad, who I was waiting for,” Mahoney explained. “You drive down into it maybe 20 yards and you can see a gulley that leads to the lake and down in that gulley was a huge tanker, a double-trailer tanker, with hazards flashing, tipped over on its side — which had obviously happened within the last little bit in the storm.”

Mahoney told his wife the crash didn’t look good and he was going to check and see if anyone was inside.

At around the same time, Mahoney received a call from his father, Bruce Mahoney, that he had also slid off the road and he was going to get a snowmobile out of the trailer and meet up with Mahoney.

As Mahoney waded through the snow and approached the semi, he feared someone would be hurt or unconscious inside.

“To my surprise, there was a conscious man there standing up but he was obviously in bad shape,” Mahoney said. “He was standing up with his head outside of the driver’s window — because it was on its side.”

Mahoney said the man appeared to be covered in crude oil. He tried to help lift the man out of the semi, but the man didn’t have enough strength.

Eventually, Mahoney focused on the windshield.

“I just pulled the windshield out and then kicked it out to the point we could get him out the front of the truck through the windshield,” he said.

Helping to walk the truck driver, Kent Ashton, back up the hill from the gulley didn’t work.

“He was obviously in shock, he was hypothermic, past the point of shivering and he was to the point where he said he just wanted to go to sleep,” Mahoney recalled of the man’s condition. “We got to the hill and once we got to the hill he could not go any further.”

At that moment, Mahoney’s father showed up with the snowmobile.

“I got his attention and then took the snowmobile and drove it down to where Kent was,” Mahoney said, explaining he then loaded up Ashton. “I just pushed on the gas full-throttle and just barely made it up onto the road where we could get back (to the parking lot).”

Mahoney said he laid down blankets for Ashton in the back of his truck and kept him warm until troopers arrived.

“I think it was a blessing that we were able to find him,” Mahoney said. “I don’t think anybody else would have found him. No one else was coming in and out of that parking lot that night. Nobody else was going to see him from the road — completely visible from the road.”

Tyler Mahoney helped rescue the driver of a semitruck that crashed near Strawberry Reservoir. (KSL TV)

Ashton told KSL TV Monday he was traveling very slowly through the area in poor visibility and another car’s trajectory led him closer to the edge of the road and he went off the lip.

While still emotionally and physically drained from the ordeal, he was grateful he survived.

“The crude tank actually busted open, and so it filled the bottom below the steering wheel, so it kind of singed my legs,” Ashton said of the oil.

In a video call facilitated by KSL TV Monday afternoon, Ashton thanked Mahoney for what he did.

“Without you, I wouldn’t have made it,” Ashton said on the call as the emotion of the moment became visible on his face. “I probably would have frozen in the truck.”

Mahoney told Ashton he was also grateful he could be there for him.

“I was just glad that we found you, that you were OK for the time being and we were able to get you out of there,” Mahoney said on the call.

Ashton said getting back to medical care from Mahoney’s truck wasn’t easy — one ambulance got stuck and it took a couple of different ambulances and roughly two hours to get back to the Heber City area.

“I appreciate it,” Ashton told Mahoney. “I really do.”

The men agreed to connect again in the future.

Mahoney said he never expected what unfolded that day.

“I think it was just a miracle that we came across him and it was great to help him,” Mahoney said. “It’s awesome to be part of that.”

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Utah man spots wrecked tanker during blizzard, rescues driver near Strawberry Reservoir