The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

May 4, 2013

Cop, GPS helped locate ill trucker

MASURY — A frightened Masury wife credits a Brookfield Township policeman with helping save the life of her husband, a long-distance truck driver who suffered a diabetic emergency while on a run from Maine to Columbus, Ohio.

Lovetta Morrow said her husband, 54-year-old Richard O’Bara, remains unconscious in an intensive care unit in a New Hampshire hospital, but would likely have died without the help of Gerald Hockey, a Brookfield patrolman who took her fears seriously and coordinated search efforts to locate him.

O’Bara, who lives on Syme Street, has been a truck driver for nearly 30 years. He’s been a diabetic for about four, his wife said. When he travels, he’s gone for a month at a time, Morrow said, but “we talk all day long. Maybe 20 minutes here or an hour there,” she said.

She last spoke with her husband Tuesday night and he told her he was in Pennsylvania, headed for Columbus. “But he told the dispatcher he was in Binghamton, New York,” after he didn’t deliver the load in Columbus on Wednesday, she said. “And he wasn’t talking right. I thought maybe he was tired,” she said.

She said she didn’t hear from him Wednesday morning as usual, but didn’t get too worried. “I thought he was traveling and I just didn’t think too much of it, until I didn’t hear from him at all and I couldn’t reach him,” she said.

She said she called Sprint, her cell phone service provider, and asked if they could track her husband by his cell phone location. “They told me they couldn’t do it. And they told me the police couldn’t do it either,” she said.

Worried that something had happened, she went to the Brookfield police station at about 4 p.m. Wednesday and told Hockey her husband was missing. She said her husband had said he’d been kicked out of a motel Tuesday for appearing drunk, but that her husband doesn’t drink.

Hockey said he knew that appearing disoriented and having slurred speech is also a sign of a diabetic problem, and he contacted the Sprint law enforcement medical hot line and reported it as a medical emergency. The cellular company faxed him a set of O’Bara’s last GPS coordinates from his phone. Hockey plugged those coordinates into a Google map program, and found that it was along Interstate 95 southbound, near Greenland, N.H., just a few miles south of the Maine border.

Checking a map, he found a truck stop located close to those same coordinates and he asked Morrow to call the truck stop with a description of her husband and his truck. Employees at the truck stop searched and found O’Bara “alive, but unresponsive with his tongue hanging out” inside his truck and called an ambulance.

“He had been there the whole time, and he was confused, thinking he was in Pennsylvania or New York,” his wife said.

Hockey said he took her fears seriously, because of the things she said. “I kind of knew it was a medical emergency, and I thought I didn’t want to blow her off and just put out a BOLO (be on the lookout) for the plate and wait for someone to find the truck. I’m very happy we found him so quickly. That’s why you do this job,” he said.

“I searched online until I found Sprint and the law enforcement link and I told them ‘We’ve got to find this guy now’ and we did,” Hockey said.

Hockey has been with the Brookfield police department for 14 years, working mostly the midnight shift. This week, however, he was on afternoon turn when Morrow walked in. “He’s all right in my book. He was right on the ball,” she said of Hockey’s assistance.

She would like to travel to New Hampshire to be with her husband of 11 years, but she said she doesn’t have the money. “I have a friend coming, more like a brother to us, who is going to try and help us,” she said.

“I called the hospital a little bit ago and they said he was still unconscious, that there were no changes. But I’m taking that to mean he hasn’t gotten any worse. He’s on life support. I’m just praying he wakes up,” she said Friday afternoon.

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