Letter: ‘I hope that it never happens to another person’

I would like to start by thanking those in this small community who bonded together to help my husband and I when we became stuck in a snow drift during the snowstorm two weeks ago. Thank you to B&B, Richie Baldwin, Riverside Motors, Netus Dodson, VDOT, Virginia State Police, Mr. Lewis and many of my wonderful neighbors. As the daughter of someone who has worked for VDOT for most of my life, I understand the long hours and hard work a storm brings. As much as I want to keep this letter positive, however, I feel it necessary to tell my story in the hope that it never happens to another person.

Damage to one of the rear wheels of the Dawson truck, after it was freed from the snow.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, we were expecting more snow and with it, high winds. Our road had been plowed, so we attempted to take our truck to the bottom of the road just in case we lost power and had to get out; my husband, Gary, had two strokes in 2009 and he has to have electricity for a medical breathing-assistance device. He cannot shovel nor lift due to his condition, and after we became stuck in what was then a small snow drift I called the Sheriff’s Office to notify them that we were stuck and were trying to contact someone to help pull us out.

To make a very long series of events as short as possible, we were told to call the state police and follow their instructions, which we did. Over the next 14 hours the wind blew and soon had at least five feet of snow on each side, under and on top of the bed of the truck. The state trooper that we kept in touch with the entire time was so understanding as we tried several resources to help to pull us out, with no luck.

We were told on more than one occasion that our road was open on both ends and everyone else had access in and out; the state trooper advised us to sit tight until VDOT could bring equipment in to break up the snow and ice and then remove the truck. He felt it was not a job for a tow truck. I sat up each night with our lights on just in case someone were to come during those hours. On Friday morning, the state police said the equipment had broken down, and that we would just have to wait.

After hearing that the VDOT equipment had broken down, I called another resource with a very large tractor that could help us break up the snow and ice and then pull out the truck. He was to be here at 5 p.m. on Friday. At 4:20 p.m., however, two Sheriff’s Office deputies knocked on our door to insist that the road had to be opened within the hour; we were told that it didn’t matter any longer what the state police had told us. A tow truck arrived.

After trying numerous times to remove the truck with no luck, Deputy Daniel Stevens told my husband to get out of the truck, got inside himself and accelerated to the point I could hear the truck “screaming” and a loud noise moments before the truck broke loose. My husband went running across the yard to tell him to get out of the truck. The back tires were blown out, holes dug by the wheels into the pavement. I have a series of pictures from start to finish of these events.

My main point is that the deputies would not allow us to wait another half hour for the large tractor that could have safely removed the snow and ice from around the truck at an affordable cost. They said the road must be opened “within one hour.” But after our truck was removed, the five- to six-foot drifts of snow were not removed until 5:37 a.m. the next morning.

I do not have anything negative to say about when the snow was removed as I know the men from VDOT were exhausted and tired after this blizzard and needed to rest. My problem lies in the fact that I followed all instructions of the Sheriff’s Office and the State Police — and then our personal property was damaged so badly it will cost us hundreds of dollars to repair with a hefty tow bill to boot. I sit here with tears in my eyes as I didn’t want it to come to this; I am the only one in the home that can work due to my husband’s illness, so we cannot afford this and we should not be responsible. We have received an apology from the Sheriff’s Office, which I appreciate, but now I hear the Sheriff’s Office is saying no deputy drove or damaged the truck — although there were four other witnesses with neighbors also looking out of their windows.

I feel so hurt and betrayed it is taking a lot of guts to make this public, but I hope it never happens to anyone else. Again, I apologize to those who were inconvenienced and say thank you again to all who were so kind; I hope to pay the kindness forward one day.

Jennifer Dawson

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