The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 8, 2013

Ill trucker conscious, improving, wife says

By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer

MASURY — The Masury truck driver who was found unconscious in his rig in New Hampshire last week is awake and slowly improving, according to his wife, Lovetta Morrow, but there is a long road ahead of the couple, she said.

Richard O’Bara, 54, an over-the-road truck driver for 30 years, was delivering material from Maine to Columbus, Ohio, when he went missing. Between his wife and Brookfield Township patrolman Gerald Hockey, O’Bara’s truck was located at a truck stop, and he was found inside, unresponsive, where he had been for about two days.

He awoke from a coma two days ago, Morrow said, but is still in intensive care, struggling to speak and not fully comprehending everything. He was on life support, including a ventilator, from Thursday until Monday.

Morrow said she cannot afford to travel to the New Hampshire hospital where he is, but she asked nurses to take the telephone into his room so she could talk to him.

“He told me he loves me. And then you know what he asked? Where is his truck? He’s already thinking about that. He had no idea he was in New Hampshire,” she said.

A diabetic, O’Bara’s blood glucose levels dropped and he became confused, telling his wife he was in Pennsylvania and telling his employer he was in New York. Then everyone lost contact with him last Tuesday evening, until Hockey helped locate him on Thursday.

Morrow went to the Brookfield police station Thursday afternoon and told Hockey her husband was missing somewhere between Maine and Columbus, Ohio. Hockey tracked down the GPS coordinates of O’Bara’s last cell phone call, plugged them into a Google map program and then searched for the nearest truck stop.

O’Bara was found at a Travel Centers of America truck stop just a few miles south of Maine, along Interstate 95. Employees at the truck stop, at Morrow’s urging, looked in his truck and found him unconscious.

“If it hadn’t been for that policeman, he would be dead. He took a real interest in our situation. Otherwise, we never would have found him,” Morrow said.

Police Chief Dan Faustino was discussing the incident at Monday’s township trustees meeting and called Hockey’s actions “going above and beyond.” Hockey is a 14-year veteran of the Brookfield police department.

And while O’Bara is awake and talking, he isn’t yet out of the woods, his wife said. “He has an infection around his heart. They were doing some tests today to see if there is heart damage. And they said they were getting a speech therapist to come and work with him. He talks like he’s had a stroke, but they said he didn’t,” Morrow said.

“They said it is normal for someone who just came out of a coma to be a little confused yet,” she added.

Finances have been a problem for the couple since it happened. “I can’t afford to go up there. I just don’t have the money. I have a van that I know won’t make it to New Hampshire. I have a car that is my son-in-law’s but it gets like 8 miles to the gallon. It would cost me $400 to get there, let alone getting back,” she said. The hospital is 640 miles from the couple’s home on Syme Street in Masury.

“I called the company he works for to ask if maybe they owed us some money for the trip he made up there, but they told me that we owed them money,” she said, “because they had to fly a driver up to New Hampshire and have him deliver the load to Columbus.”

Hospital bills are likely to be another setback for the couple, who did not have health insurance. “I haven’t really thought about that too much yet. I’m just asking for prayers for him to continue to recover. If he gets well and can go back to work, we can pay it,” she said.

Being a diabetic won’t rule out a continuing career in truck driving, Morrow said, unless he has to take insulin shots. “If you get insulin via a needle, you can’t drive. If you take pills, that’s OK. We’ll just have to see what happens. Just pray for him to get well. That’s what we need, for people to pray,” she said.