PennDOT honors lifesaving employee

Jan. 20—FARRELL — PennDOT honored one of its employees as a workplace hero after she assisted a woman who had fallen in her driveway in Farrell.

Samantha VanDyke, who was out surveying guide rails at the time on Dec. 4, happened to be driving on state Route 418 (Mercer Avenue) northbound when she saw something unusual.

"I saw a lady lying in her driveway waving her arms," VanDyke said. "I could tell she needed help. I stopped and I was glad I did."

The woman had fallen and had been suffering from a previous back injury that prevented her from getting up unassisted. She had been lying on the ground in temperatures in the 40s for about 20 minutes before VanDyke came along.

"She was visibly upset," VanDyke said. "She was in a sitting position and was crying."

VanDyke went behind her and the woman was able to lean against her legs because she was afraid to move her. VanDyke took off her coat and wrapped it around the woman's shoulders because she could feel her shivering. Another motorist stopped at that time. She also took off her jacket to cover the woman's legs.

They stayed with the woman until help arrived.

"I was just doing the right thing and I just wish that 20 minutes prior that somebody else would've done it," VanDyke said.

Aaron Fox, PennDOT's assistant district executive for maintenance, said the incident serves as a great example of VanDyke's overall attitude of service to others.

"She is respected among her peers for her friendly and efficient approach in the workplace and her caring actions towards others," Fox said.

For PennDOT, VanDyke serves taxpayers by handling the damage claim recovery process for Mercer County at an extremely high rate of success, managing the inventory at stock yards and assists with roadside operations in the county and helping coordinate charity efforts among the employees.

VanDyke, who will mark her 10th anniversary with PennDOT this month, was previously given a county level award for her quick actions to help the woman that day.

Workplace Hero is an award open to PennDOT employees who, during work hours or as a representative of the department, take actions that prevent the death or serious injury of a co-worker or member of the public.

"I feel the award is unnecessary but I'm appreciative," VanDyke said. "I would just hope that there are more people out there willing to do the right thing and look after the people in our community whether it be on the side of the road or in general — especially when it's the cold time of the year when elders are out trying to maintain their own driveways, accidents happen. We just need to be aware and look out for each other."

Follow Melissa Klaric on twitter @HeraldKlaric or email her at mklaric@sharonherald.com