Good Samaritan hands out food to stranded drivers on turnpike

Cary Ashby • Mar 17, 2014 at 11:05 PM

Call it the story of the Good Samaritan on the Ohio Turnpike.

Following a series of crashes that shut down the turnpike Wednesday, Monroeville residents John and Sharon Ambrose gathered as much food as they could, and then John delivered it to motorists who had been stranded for hours.

"You could see they were getting frustrated by being there that long," Ambrose said, but added many people expressed how kind he and his wife were by offering food.

"If I had more stuff, I would have given out more," he added.

The chain-collision crashes covered less than 2 miles in Sandusky County. Three people were killed, a state Highway Patrol trooper was seriously injured and more than a dozen others were injured. The wrecks, likely caused by poor visibility and icy roads, involved nearly 90 vehicles, some of which were caught in the middle and stranded.

Ambrose and his wife had heard traffic on the turnpike had been backed up since about 1:30 p.m.

"I was at work all day," said Ambrose, who got sent home about 3 p.m. due to the weather.

"It took me an hour to get home. ... It was really bad out," he said.

"There were seven or eight vehicles off Huron-Avery Road," added Ambrose, who had helped another person assist a couple of stranded motorists on the way home.

About 4 or 4:30, Ambrose got stuck in his own driveway. He said a cousin who "showed up at the right time" plowed him out.

By 6 or 6:30, Ambrose and his wife were having supper and she talked about wanting to help the stranded drivers on the turnpike.

"I didn't really want to at first," said Ambrose, because he was concerned about how people would respond.

After 15 or 20 minutes of talking about what to do, the couple jumped into action.

"We decided to go ahead and do it," Ambrose said.

The couple gathered some microwaveable pretzels, peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, bottled water, applesauce, Graham crackers and diapers. Sharon Ambrose put the sandwiches in labeled plastic baggies.

They put as much as they could in a wheelbarrow tray, which John Ambrose pulled using a rope. He typically uses the sled-like contraption to get through snow drifts.

"It slides really good through the snow," he said.

Ambrose made the trek from his house to the turnpike, which is a quarter to a half mile away. When he reached a 3-foot-tall barbed fence on Thomas Road, some of the truck drivers helped by catching the food Ambrose threw over the fence.

"I tossed everything over," Ambrose said. "They (the truckers) were very helpful. ... They must have seen me coming across. I had a yellow hat on."

His original plan was to seek out people, and especially families, in vehicles because Ambrose suspected the truckers would have items in their trucks. The first couple he encountered told him to take his time since they could tell he was breathless.

"I was out of breath from what I was doing," Ambrose said.

That same husband spent about 30 minutes pulling the wheelbarrow tray while Ambrose interacted with drivers and offered them food.

"He helped pull the wagon for a little bit. He saw I was tired from what I did," Ambrose added.

Ambrose also encountered a husband, wife and three children in a sport utility vehicle. They took some Graham crackers, water and applesauce, he said.

"It was such a good experience," he said. "It was just a really good experience."

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