‘I can never do enough to thank them’

An Idaho lawmaker shares the story of how a trucking couple went above and beyond to render aid to her and her family following a highway crash.

August-September 2019

Greg Grisolano

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Ilana Rubel believes she and her family owe their lives to a pair of good Samaritan truck drivers.

Rubel, a Democratic state representative representing Boise, Idaho, may be a familiar name to those who have followed the plight of three truckers who were arrested and charged with drug trafficking for hauling industrial hemp through her home state of Idaho. Two of the truckers have pleaded guilty to felony drug charges in connection with their arrests and a third is scheduled to go to trial this fall.

Rubel and her colleague Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, have been leading the charge for leniency for the drivers, by delivering a petition asking the Ada County prosecutor to drop the charges and also by sponsoring legislation that would have harmonized state laws with federal regulations.

“I think this situation was so profoundly unjust that … I would have wanted to go to bat for these poor truck drivers,” she said. “I know there are a lot of really amazing truckers working really hard out there and helping people.”

‘Utterly terrifying’

Rubel’s encounter with her good Samaritan truckers happened on a chilly night in late January 2001. For her, it was a life-saving deal. She and her husband, John, and their then-infant son had loaded up the family SUV. They were westbound from Chicago, relocating to Boise as John pursued a new job with a technology company.

They were somewhere west of Laramie, Wyo., on Interstate 80, when their Ford Explorer hit an icy patch on the roadway. Rubel said her husband lost control of the vehicle, and they slid off the road, flipping multiple times before coming to rest on the roof of the vehicle in a field.

It was an “utterly terrifying” experience.

“All our belongings were scattered, the windows were smashed,” she said. “It was well below zero (degrees). Freezing wind was blasting through the car at that point. It had no windows anymore. We heard the baby screaming … We were absolutely panicked.”

Rubel said the panic didn’t last long though, as two truckers came to the family’s rescue. She says a trucking couple – “Jim and Gina” – were following behind the family’s vehicle and saw the crash occur. They pulled their trucks over and came to the family’s rescue.

“They called 911 and got an ambulance to the scene and kept us warm,” she said. “It was probably 20 minutes for an ambulance to get there because we were nowhere. Not particularly close to town.”

Jim and Gina’s help didn’t stop there, however. Rubel remembers that once the family had been checked out and given clean bills of health, getting a page on the intercom for a phone call.

“The call was from the truckers,” she said. “It was Jim and Gina. And they said ‘Well, we figured you guys might need some more help because you have no car, you have no anything. We were just seeing if you guys need a lift.’”

She recalls “two giant semis” backing up to the loading docks at the hospital. Her husband rode in the cab with Jim while she and her baby rode with Gina. She says they spent the whole seven-hour trip to Boise chatting like old friends.

“They saved us twice, really,” she said. “They saved us on the side of the road, and then they saved us from being stranded at this hospital in Wyoming. And they absolutely could not have been kinder or sweeter. We just loved them to pieces.”

As Rubel says she remembers it, Jim and Gina were living in Oregon at the time and were engaged to be married. She wrote the couple’s address down and shortly thereafter mailed a thank-you card to them, along with a check for $1,000, hoping they’d use it on their honeymoon.

“We just wanted to do something to thank you for your incredible kindness for coming to save us not once, but twice,” she said.

As the months rolled by without a response and without the check being cashed, Rubel said she started to become concerned she’d sent the check to the wrong address. But at the end of the year, the family finally got a response from Jim and Gina that still blows her away.

“We got a card back from them, returning our check and including a check to me for $100,” she said.

The couple wrote that they felt bad for waiting so long to respond, and that they declined to take the money from the family. The $100 was “for the interest that you would have earned if you used the money for something else.”

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “It just exceeded your wildest dreams of what a good Samaritan would do. We would have been grateful enough if they just rescued us from a smashed car at the side of the road … But they went so far above and beyond that.”

Rubel said her only regret is that she misplaced Jim and Gina’s address when her family moved to a different home in Boise a short time later. She’s not been able to be in touch with them again.

“I wished many times that I still had their address because I would love to talk to them,” she said. “So I hope they’re readers of your publication or that somebody knows them because I just love those guys. I can never do anything enough to thank them.” LL

Greg Grisolano

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.

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