Hamilton

Teens push car 7 km down Ontario highway to help stranger

Three boys pushed a woman's car close to 7 km — still wearing their swim trunks from an evening dip — and rolled into a Welland driveway about two-and-a-half hours later.

Friends spotted broken car late at night, pushed driver 2 hours while 'jamming out'

Billy Tabett, 15, Bailey Campbell, 17, and Aeron McQuillin, 18, during their early morning feat on Wednesday. The three friends all live a few doors down from each other in Fonthill, Ontario. (Submitted by Dan Morrison)

When three Ontario teens went for a drive last week, they didn't expect to push a stranger's broken car nearly seven kilometres down the highway and come home at 4 a.m.

But the decision was obvious. 

"We didn't have anything else to do and we really wanted to help her," said Billy Tarbett, 15.

Tarbett and his friends Bailey Campbell, 17, and Aeron McQuillin,18, are being widely celebrated on social media for their feat —which they just call a "good workout."

The friends from Fonthill, Ont. had been swimming and were heading to Tim Horton's, when they spotted a smoking car on the highway around 1 a.m. Wednesday. 

They immediately pulled over to help, but realized the woman's car was "completely done," said McQuillin.

'Are you guys ready to push?'

The boys grew up fixing cars with their dads, so they knew she shouldn't try to drive the broken vehicle.

But the driver couldn't afford a tow truck — so Tarbett looked at his buddies.

"I said, are you guys ready to push?" 

The teens pushed a stranger's car down a dark Ontario highway, while Dan Morrison protected them from behind. "It was quite the good workout, that's for sure," said McQuillin.  (Submitted by Dan Morrison)

Still wearing their swim trunks, the trio of teens jumped into action, pushing the car more than two hours, most of it down the dark Merittville Highway before they rolled into the woman's Welland driveway around 4 a.m.

Google Maps calculates the distance at 6.6 km, although their tracker recorded longer.

'Jamming out' on the way

The woman steered while the boys pushed, cracking jokes and singing along with a portable speaker to Drake, 21 Savage, Juice Wrld, Afroman and David Wilcox (because sometimes you need some rock).

"We weren't really thinking of how far it'd be. We were just jamming out," said Tarbett.

Another stranger, Dan Morrison, drove behind them the entire way to make sure they wouldn't get hurt. 

"I'd never met these kids in my life," said Morrison, who had also pulled over to help. He was amazed by the boys.

"Dad mode went into effect and I just wanted to make sure these kids were safe."

'We were always raised to help'

At first, McQuillin thought his friend was "absolutely crazy" for the idea. But he and Campbell didn't need much convincing.

The three friends live down the street from each other in Fonthill, Ontario and say they'd do it again in a heartbeat.

"We were always raised to help, no matter what the situation was," said Tarbett. "We were helping her but also she was helping us, doing a workout."

Burning calves, then 'a walk in the ballpark'

There was a tough hill at the start ("our calves were absolutely burning," McQuillin said).

But after they got going, "it was a walk in the ballpark, pretty much," said Campbell. Luckily, the highway is not a a busy road at that time of night.

The boys took one break along the way —  but the car battery died while they were parked. So Morrison drove one of the boys home, they grabbed a booster pack, and jumped the battery just enough to gear back into neutral.

When they finally made it to the driver's home, it felt awesome, said McQuillin. "We actually didn't think we'd be able to make it the whole way."

Not even sore in the morning

Despite the meaty workout, Tarbett said "nothing was sore" the next morning.

They were just "a little tired" — but still got up and went for a swim.

Campbell had recently broken his wrist, but says this turned out to be a "nice" way to get back into exercising after three months of recovery.

Tarbett plays double A hockey and McQuillin hopes to join the provincial police force — so this was a great way to "whip myself into shape," McQuillin said.

"We definitely got some gains from it, that's for sure."

The boys only know the woman's first name, and want to go back and see how she's doing. She was extremely grateful for their help, they said — even though she initially thought they were kidding.

Big social media response

To the boys' surprise, social media posts about the push have gone viral. A lot of people have messaged with congratulations, said McQuillan, and some offered a free meal or Tim Horton's gift card.

But the boys aren't taking it.

"We really appreciate it, but we didn't do this to get free handouts," said McQuillin. "If I was broken down on the side of the road, I would love for someone to stop and help out."

Morrison, a father of two, said this was a great reminder that in a seemingly-negative world, "There's good kids out there."

As of press deadline, the boys were still driving around enjoying a summer night.

"Full send," they said, describing their feat.

About the Author

Laura Howells is a journalist from St. John's who is now working in Toronto and Hamilton. You can reach her at laura.howells@cbc.ca.

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