Rob Parritt Jr. smiles after getting to meet Dustin Andrews at Parritt’s home in Windham on Sunday afternoon. Andrews, an off-duty firefighter and EMT, happened to be driving behind Parritt’s vehicle when Parritt suffered a cardiac event. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The morning of Tuesday, Jan. 24, started like most work days for Rob Parritt Jr., as he left his home in Windham around 7 a.m. to drive to his part-time job as a parts department courier at Pape Subaru in South Portland.

But his routine drive did not last long. Less than a mile from his home, the 67-year-old suffered a cardiac event on the Route 202 bridge on the Gorham-Windham town line. As he began to lose consciousness, his foot pressed on the accelerator, causing his pickup truck to slide off the road and hit a snowbank that had piled up against the bridge’s guardrails from the previous day’s snowstorm. Beyond that barrier lay the surging waters of the Presumpscot River.

It was a dire situation – but something amazing happened.

Dustin Andrews, an off-duty firefighter and EMT, just happened to be driving behind Parritt’s truck. The night before, Andrews had decided to wait another day before plowing a customer’s driveway. His plan was to plow the driveway after he and his wife dropped their daughter off at school.

“I decided to leave a little early so that I would still have time to plow the driveway,” he said.  That decision, though it seemed insignificant, likely was life-changing for Parritt.

Rob Parritt Jr. meets Dustin Andrews at Parritt’s home in Windham on Sunday afternoon. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“Had I not left early, things might have turned out differently,” Andrews said.


He said he could only look on at first as Parritt’s Chevy Silverado stopped in the middle of the bridge.

“He came to a complete stop before he floored it,” Andrews said. “The truck fishtailed and hit the bridge.”

At first Andrews said he thought a teenager was behind the unorthodox driving manuever, but when he got out of his vehicle and looked inside the truck, he realized that was not the case. Parritt was completely limp and bubbling at the mouth, signs of a possible seizure. The driver’s face was turning purple. He radioed the emergency dispatch center to get an ambulance to the scene as soon as possible.

The truck was locked, and the engine still running, so Andrews used his pocket knife to break the driver’s side window. With assistance from a bystander, who was working at a nearby construction site, he was able to move Parritt from the truck and onto the pavement where Andrews began administering CPR. A Windham police officer arrived after about seven or eight minutes and took over CPR until a Gorham ambulance crew showed up. Parritt was transported to Maine Medical Center in Portland where he spent the next three days in intensive care.

Rob Parritt Jr. is hugged by his daughter Mallory Stilkey of Sabbatus on Sunday afternoon. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“It was one of those situations of being in the right place at the right time,” said Andrews, who is a per diem firefighter for Windham and an on-call firefighter for Gorham. “I believe that everything happens for a reason.”

Windham police officer Justin Hudnor took over CPR from Andrews, said Lt. Brandon Brichetto of Gorham Fire and Rescue. Jared Welsh was the cardiac arrest leader in the Gorham ambulance that took off to Maine Medical Center, Brichetto said. And two other Gorham call company firefighters were also in the area and responded to the crash, according to Brichetto. Nicholas Hollmann and Lt. Jeff Manzer assisted with traffic control. Manzer just happened to be in the area because he was plowing driveways on his Gorham route.


“I think the early recognition of cardiac arrest, CPR and early defibrillation played a huge role,” Brichetto said in an email.

Parritt’s wife, Sharon Parritt, and their son, Rob Parritt III, say they want to express their gratitude everyone who stepped up that morning to save Parritt’s life.

“The whole thing was such a blur, but he definitely had angels with him that day,” Sharon Parritt said.

She said she was also told that the ambulance crew had to resuscitate her husband “a few times” before they reached the hospital.  She thanked Welsh for helping to keep her husband alive.

“He was in extreme distress and wasn’t breathing. I’m told they lost him a few times,” she said. “It was pretty touch and go for awhile.”

Parritt’s son Rob is the former Director of Portland’s Oxford Street homeless shelter. He told some of the story of his father’s rescue on Twitter.


“By sheer luck he crashed right next to a construction site, and a few of the guys were volunteer firefighters,” Parritt tweeted. “It’s a miracle that he crashed where he did and that people with the right training were able to be there and save him. Another mile down the road and we lose him. We’re working to track down these heroes and to thank them for saving my dad’s life.”

“I’m not a particularly spiritual individual,” Parritt said later in a telephone interview. “But, this cascade of extremely fortunate events is hard to overlook. Someone was looking out for him.”

Rob Parritt Jr., center, meets Dustin Andrews at Parritt’s home in Windham on Sunday afternoon. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

As for Rob Parritt Jr., who has been recovering at home, he said he has no memory of the crash or the good Samaritans who saved him, though his three children and eight grandchildren are grateful that they did.

“I’m feeling pretty good and very lucky,” he said. “I realize I was very fortunate. What are the chances of having all those people being there within seconds after I crashed? It’s hard to comprehend.”

The first thing Parritt remembers was waking up in the hospital, where he soon heard about his rescuers.

On Sunday, Parritt’s family gathered inside his Main Street home in Windham where they awaited the arrival of Andrews. When Andrews came through the front door he was surrounded by the Parritt clan. His three children, his 90-year-old father, and eight grandchildren thanked Andrews profusely.  Sharon Parritt presented Andrews with a small token of their appreciation, the $1 dollar bill that her husband had with him on the day of the crash.


“If this gentleman was not there that day my dad would not have had a chance to live,” said Parritt’s daughter, Nicole Cummings of Freeport. “The CPR he gave my father during those first minutes helped save his life. There was obviously divine intervention. Everything lined up for him that day.”

Sharon Parritt takes a picture of her husband Rob Parritt Jr., right, and Dustin Andrews on Sunday afternoon. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Cummings said doctors and nurses at Maine Medical Center were calling her father the “miracle man.”

Andrews said he was surprised to see how large Parritt’s family was. There were about 20 people inside the home when he arrived Sunday afternoon with his wife and their daughter. Andrews said he rarely gets to meet the people whose lives he saves. But this moment, he said, was special.

“It’s so good to see you up and standing,” Andrews said, after he and Parritt hugged.

Shortly before Andrews arrived, Parritt admitted that he wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this moment with his offspring if it had not been for Andrews’ efforts. He said first responders deserve credit for the heroic work they do every day.

For some reason, they were put there,” Parritt said of his rescuers. “I think it’s a miracle I’m alive.”

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