Holding on Until the End

Juan Galindo died Oct. 19, 2002, in a single-vehicle accident.

Truckers Gene Jones, Jeremy Wieckhorst and Michael Myers say they didn’t do anything special. Stella Galindo says they are angels in disguise for assisting her dying son.

“They deserve wings,” says Stella Galindo.

On Oct. 19, 2002, at approximately 4 a.m., Jones and Wieckhorst, team drivers who pull an oil tanker for R&L Transport, were rolling near Wichita, Kan., when they saw Juan Galindo’s white van crash and roll. Jones had first noticed Juan Galindo’s van at a traffic light on the almost deserted street. Moments later Jones saw the van swerve into a light pole and overturn. Juan Galindo was pinned beneath the vehicle. Police would later determine that he fell asleep at the wheel.

“There was nothing anybody could do but just be there with him,” says Myers, who spotted the overturned van and stopped his truck to help Jones and Wieckhorst. The three men stayed with the 19-year-old until he died. They remained with him until paramedics arrived, and they helped lift the van off the young man.

Myers, who works for Charles Holmes Trucking, says he doesn’t feel like he did anything worthy of praise or attention. “I think anyone would stop after seeing a wreck like that,” he says. “At least I hope they would, out of the kindness of their heart.”

For a time after her son’s death, Stella Galindo says she had awful images in mind of her son dying scared and all alone. Then police told her that a witness saw a trucker kneeling at her son’s side waiting with him for the paramedics.

From that moment, Stella Galindo began a search for the man who was with her son as he took his last breath. A story ran in The Wichita Eagle about her quest to find the compassionate trucker. Jones’ children read the story and realized the man Stella Galindo was looking for was their father. Jones and Galindo finally met on Nov. 15.

“It was so important to touch the last hand to touch my son’s hand,” Galindo says.

She also learned that there were two other men, Myers and Wieckhorst, on the scene trying to help her son as well. “People just assume that all truckers are cowboy, macho guys,” Galindo says. “But they’re kind and sweet. They have a heart.”

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Galindo said that when Jones came to visit her at her home the first thing she did was hug him. After thanking him countless times and getting more details about her son’s accident, she presented Jones with a plaque. It reads: “To a compassionate man that took time out to hold my dying son’s hand.” The plaque is also adorned with two clasped hands, praying hands.
Jones says though he appreciated the plaque, he was a little embarrassed by it. Like Myers, Jones feels he did something that anyone else would have done. “It’s just kind of an instinct to try to help somebody,” he says.

But Jones is glad that he and Galindo could meet. “It felt good to give her closure,” he says.

Galindo also made plaques for Myers and Wieckhorst.

“I just can’t thank them enough,” she says.