Francisco “Cisco” Martinez and Ronald Metzger were driving on Broadway in Lancaster, headed to the AMVETS store in Lancaster, when their routine delivery trip turned into an extraordinary act of courage.
Martinez was behind the wheel of the AMVETS truck when he noticed a car speed by him in the passing lane.
“He almost cut me off,” he recounted.
Suddenly, the car began to swerve wildly.
“I think he’s having a heart attack,” Metzger said. “We’ve got to do something.”
Martinez isn’t sure what made him do what he did next, but his actions almost certainly saved the stricken driver’s life and perhaps the lives of others, too.
Martinez stepped on the gas and then veered in front of the speeding car.
“I then slowed my truck down to get to his speed,” Martinez said.
The front of the car bumped into the back of the truck, and Martinez began slowing the car down and brought it to a stop.
Metzger then jumped out of the truck and ran to the car to help the driver while Martinez stayed in the truck, keeping the vehicles from moving.
At the same time, a passing motorist saw the commotion and flagged down a patrol car.
Officer Richard Kotlak raced to the scene.
“I saw that the driver of the vehicle was in obvious distress,” Kotlak said. “He was unable to unlock the door … unable to really move.”
Kotlak ran to the passenger’s side and used the window punch he keeps attached to his vest to smash the window open. The car was still in drive, so Kotlak reached in and put it into park or neutral. He couldn’t quite remember which, because of all of the excitement.
An ambulance soon arrived and took the driver to Erie County Medical Center.
Kotlak said the driver is lucky that the two AMVETS workers were where they were and did what they did.
“It was a good thing,” Kotlak said. “He could have hit oncoming traffic or a tree. That was pretty neat, what they did.”
After the driver was taken away, Martinez said, they got back in their truck and continued with their delivery.
It wasn’t his idea to contact the media about what happened, he said.
But he’s happy he was able to help, said Martinez, a 40-year-old, engaged father of a 3-year-old boy and an employee of AMVETS for 12 years.
“I feel great I was able to help him,” he said Saturday.
The driver, identified by family as Peter Barczykowski, 58, of Depew, was recuperating Saturday at ECMC, where doctors were trying to figure out what was ailing him. He was listed in fair condition.
Doctors told his daughter, Tracy Ternowski, that he had suffered multiple seizures.
Barczykowski felt dizzy earlier in the day, but he was feeling better when he headed out Friday to his job with the Department of Transportation, Ternowski said.
“That’s Dad: ‘I’ve got to get to work,’ ” she said.
She retrieved her father’s car and examined the surprisingly little damage – some to the hood and one headlight.
She knows it could have been a lot worse.
“I can’t even put into words how thankful …” she said, her voice trailing off. “How do you thank someone for saving your father’s life?”