Stephen Lill met the man whose life he saved over a year ago for the first time Thursday night.
The Stoney Creek transport truck driver was en route from Toronto to Hamilton when he came across a gruesome roll-over. Inside the cab of the tractor-trailer, a fellow driver named Don clinging to life. Lill, a 48-year-old with three decades on the road, stepped in to help when no other bystander would.
'I said, ‘I won’t leave you until help arrives.' - Stephen Lill
Thursday night, Lill received the Bridgestone Canada Truck Hero Award at the Ontario Trucking Association annual meeting. Lill’s parents, two sons and wife, Lynn, will be there, as will Don, his wife and their two daughters.
“How I’m going to talk and interact with him physically for the first time, especially in front of all of those people, I don’t know,” he said. “I’m sure it will be very emotional... I’m just going to let it flow.”
The last time Lill saw Don was two days after the April 30, 2012 accident. Don was unconscious in the Intensive Care Unit at Hamilton General Hospital.
“I talked to his nurse and he said [Don] had head lacerations, broken pelvis,” he listed off. “The injuries where through the roof.”
'My dad's angel'
Lill said a prayer as he left, but didn’t know if he’d be okay. After returning from a two-week trip to visit family in his native England, there was a 10-minute voicemail on his cell phone from one of Don’s daughter.
“She said,’ you’re my dad’s angel’ and ‘God put you there,’” he remembered.
That’s how Lill knew Don pulled through.
A year and a half ago, Lill was driving from Toronto to Hamilton to deliver a load. He’s a local driver now, having given up the coast-to-coast drives three years ago.
Lill picked up the load in Oakville and took the on-ramp at Royal Windsor Drive, near the Ford Plant. It’s a tight on-ramp with a long, sharp curve. Lill was at the top of this, above the QEW with a view down to the bottom of the ramp and onto the main highway.
He spotted Don’s truck near the bottom of that ramp, just after the very tight curve.
“This is where he lost control,” he said. “It didn’t look good... Then, I see the truck start to roll.”
Lill said he saw Don’s truck make one and a half rotations, landing on its side with the truck’s wheels hanging off the highway, the main cab crushed from the rolls.
“The truck looked like it went through a scrap yard,” he said.
Without hesitation, Lill exited his truck and rushed down the on-ramp, calling 911 along the way.
“[Other bystanders] said don’t bother,” he said. “But I went straight through and looked. I saw a right arm and a right leg.”
Lill held the hand and felt a faint pulse. He called 911 again to tell them the man was alive, to get their quickly. Lill talked to Don until the paramedics arrived.
“I said, ‘I won’t leave you until help arrives,” Lill told him.
Keeping in touch
When paramedics arrived, Lill called the trucking company to inform them what had happened, and to figure out who the man was. He gave them the truck and trailer numbers, and the company was able to trace it to Don, a man who lived north of London.
Since Don regained strength, Lill and Don chat on the phone about twice a month. Don calls Lill his “adopted son.”
“The way things like this bring people together, it just blows me away,” Lill said.
Lill is looking forward to being face to face with Don, but he also doesn’t know how he is going to react. The OTA produced a 45-minute video with an interview with Lill recounting the accident and footage of the mangled truck. He doesn’t know if Don has ever seen photos of the accident.
“I want him to focus on life now,” he said.
Lill might be receiving an award for his heroism, but he said he’s not the hero.
“[Don] is the hero, with everything he’s been through,” he said. “I was just there to help.”
Qew accident, at royal windsor. Er pic.twitter.com/7PwpgNVB— Metroland Media (@Halton_Photog) April 30, 2012