Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative contractors, Asplundh Tree Expert, LLC crew #029011, were in the right place at the right time to rescue a Clover man who had fallen into a burning ditch. This past February, Willie Privette, of Mount Laurel Road, was attempting to contain a small brushfire when he fell and broke his shoulder. He was unable to get up and out of the path of the burning brush.
A passing motorist spotted Privette, and knowing she couldn’t help him up by herself, drove back to where she had seen the men working to enlist their help. “There was no way I could lift him up by myself and I had just passed a crew of men working not too far away. I drove back to ask them for help,” said Amanda Lee, an administrative analyst and CSA coordinator for Charlotte County Department of Social Services.
The Asplundh contractors, Marvin Marks, Benjamin Marks and William Oravits, Jr., acted immediately, following Lee to the site. “When she told us what was going on, we didn’t stop to think, we didn’t even say anything to each other, we just jumped in the truck and went,” said B. Marks.
“We got Mr. Privette into the truck and took him to his house. A couple who had stopped to help followed us. The lady was an RN, and she started administering aid to him until rescue workers could get there,” said Oravits.
All the while, pockets of fire were gaining momentum, and B. Marks grabbed a fire extinguisher and started trying to douse the flames. “The wind had picked up and it kept spreading,” he said.
“We used up one fire extinguisher, but the fire started moving toward a stand of trees next to a large field. I went and got a second one out of the truck. We knew that if it got in the tree line, it could be disastrous,” M. Marks explained, pointing to a row of tall pines. MEC electric lines were also in the path of the flames. The men continued battling the spreading fire until units from Clover Volunteer and Triangle Volunteer fire departments arrived.
Privette was transported to the VCU burn center in Richmond; after two weeks, he was sent to Sentara Woodview in South Boston for rehabilitation therapy. He is home now, recuperating.
“I’m very, very grateful to everyone that helped,” said Privette. “Because of my broken shoulder I couldn’t get myself up, and if they hadn’t been there, it could have been much worse.”
“We were very fortunate that everyone came along as they did,” said Privette’s wife, Angela. “I truly believe that God put these people in place to help and we are so thankful.”
Lee echoed this sentiment. “I feel like God had a hand in it all, to have me drive by and to have the men there to help. I am just glad that we were there that day at the right time,” she said.
“Our Asplundh contractors – Marvin Marks, Benjamin Marks and William Oravitz – as well as Amanda Lee, showed great character and an inspiring attitude of service to others with their commendable actions in this emergency,” said John Lee, president and CEO of MEC. “We are so proud of them for their quick thinking and willingness to help others by going above and beyond.”
“We’ve got a great group of contractors, and I’m not surprised that these guys would jump in to help like they did,” said Randy Whirley, MEC right-of-way coordinator. “I’m proud of them for helping, and glad they were in the right place at the right time.”
The men’s supervisor, Billy Higgins, commented, “Marvin really downplayed what happened when he got back to the office. But Amanda called, and I could hear in her voice how serious it really was as she related the heroic actions of the guys. I’m proud of all of them.”
“We do all that safety and first aid training, and they drill it into our heads, but we don’t really think about using it,” said M. Marks. “When this happened, it just clicked for all three of us. We didn’t even have to think about it, we just went into action.”
“It’s amazing to think back on it. Everything came naturally, like we just knew what we needed to do,” said Oravits.