December 4, 2013

Maine newspaper carrier saves woman from flooding car

A mother of four fears she’ll die in her overturned vehicle – until a newspaper carrier comes along.

By SUSAN MCMILLAN Kennebec Journal

DRESDEN — The horn was blaring and the hazard lights were flashing, but at 5 a.m. it was still two hours until dawn, and passing cars on Cedar Grove Road were few.

click image to enlarge

RESCUE: Becky Berlew removes items from her car Monday at her Pittston home after the vehicle rolled off the road into a water-filled ditch. Berlew credits Kennebec Journal carrier Troy Rundstrom, of Dresden, with rescuing her as the car filled with water during an early morning accident in Dresden.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

Close Call: Becky Berlew of Pittston credits Kennebec Journal carrier Troy Rundstrom, of Dresden, with rescuing her Monday after the car she was driving rolled off the road and filled with water during an early morning accident in Dresden.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Becky Berlew crouched in freezing water inside her Subaru Forester, futilely trying to break the rear window so she could escape. She despaired that anyone would spot her overturned vehicle in a watery depression at the edge of the woods.

“I figured my kids aren’t going to see me for Christmas,” Berlew said.

But someone did see the blinking light. Troy Rundstrom, who happened to be delivering copies of the Kennebec Journal in the area, came to Berlew’s rescue Monday morning.

Berlew, of Pittston, praised Rundstrom as a hero. His mother, Gloria Rundstrom, with whom he lives in Dresden, agreed.

“I guess it was a very good thing he came along when he did,” she said. “When he came home and told us, we kind of thought he was a hero. He says he’s not.”

Gloria Rundstrom said her son did not want to be interviewed by a reporter.

Berlew, a 48-year-old mother of four, gave herself extra time to arrive at the L.L. Bean manufacturing plant for a 6 a.m. shift on Monday, knowing the roads would be bad after a day and night of wet snow.

The turn from Route 27 onto Cedar Grove Road was fine. Berlew passed Dresden Elementary School and slowed to less than 20 mph for the hard curve the road takes there, but she lost control anyway.

“The slush picked me up, and first I went to the right, and then I went to the left, and then I just started making circles,” Berlew said. “And I think on the third circle, the car flipped upside down and slung me into the woods.

Berlew said mud made it impossible to open the doors, and she was afraid that opening a window would just cause the vehicle to fill with water faster. The back end of the Forester was sticking out of the water, so she moved back there. She turned on the hazard lights and stepped on the horn with one foot.

Berlew used a car jack handle to pound on the back window, but it wouldn’t break. Then, about 10 or 15 minutes later, Rundstrom pulled over, waded into the waist-deep water, managed to open the tailgate of the Forester and pulled her out.

Gloria Rundstrom said her son, 51, has been delivering newspapers for at least 25 years and has helped people in two other crashes. “This is part of a carrier’s job, I guess, to help people,” she said.

Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at:

smcmillan@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @s_e_mcmillan

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