Amid turnpike tragedy, scenes of compassion

Michael Kucera (left), with Michael Porter (center) and Jerry Cousar, bring coffee and doughnuts to motorists stranded on the turnpike.
Michael Kucera (left), with Michael Porter (center) and Jerry Cousar, bring coffee and doughnuts to motorists stranded on the turnpike. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 16, 2014

In the middle of Friday's horrific crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Bensalem and Willow Grove, scenes of concern and compassion were everywhere.

Friends and strangers alike came together to take care of one another, both at the site of the accidents and in the miles-long backup that resulted.

An 11-month-old girl was delivered from her mother's cold car to her warm day-care center by a group of friends. Strangers shared food and drink. A few men helped a woman recharge her car's battery after another woman provided jumper cables.

"It reminds me of an Eagles tailgate" party, Nora Weigold, 47, of Willow Grove, said during the height of the trouble. "Without the fun."

Tom Connell, 53, of Hatboro, was at the center of one of the main accidents, having been rear-ended by another car.

As he sat in his vehicle about four hours after the crash, still stunned and aching, someone checked on him and gave him a Wendy's cheeseburger.

Marge Brady, 65, of Bensalem, said a man who crashed into her immediately ran over to see her condition and apologize.

Ashley Crandall, 31, of Malvern, was on her way to work at General Electric in Bensalem. Crandall, stuck in the long backup, was worried that her daughter, Annabelle, wouldn't make it to day care. And the girl was getting hungry and cold.

So Crandall, six months pregnant, called her colleagues at work. The "GE Rescue Squad" arrived a bit later, and when Crandall realized she did not have boots, a man offered to carry Annabelle to her colleagues on the side of the road, who transported the girl to day care.

"I have to give them a raise," Crandall said.

Meanwhile, a woman appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and wandered among the cars offering doughnuts and coffee.

A man showed up on the side of the road with a case of water. "Does anyone want water?" he yelled.

Wendy Forman, a doctor from Radnor, was on her way to work at St. Mary Medical Center. As she sat in the backup, she turned off the engine of her car. But she listened to the radio for news reports. Then her battery died.

So Becky Carfagno of Blue Bell, on her way to work in Trenton, supplied some jumper cables, and a few men hooked up the cars and got Forman's battery back to life.

Not every story had a happy ending.

Two men from Willow Grove, Rob Hessman, 35, and Josh Johnson, 26, noticed a beer truck stuck in the backup and joked with the driver that this would be a perfect time to sample his stock.

The driver laughed, too.

But he did not comply.


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