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Nov 13, 2013

5 min. read

Remember John Storey? He was the selfless tow truck operator who saved five-year-old Gloria Burke from the path of an oncoming tractor trailer back in September. We caught up with Storey and Gregory Burke (Gloria’s father) for a follow-up interview.


John, what brought you to the On Route where this all took place?

John: I stopped to have a washroom break and grab a milk (my coffee) on my way home from Toronto. I always stop because I am a firm believer in taking breaks to stay alert. I don’t know what caught my attention, but I noticed what I thought was a little boy (which I later learned to be a girl) in the large truck exit lane, just standing there.

Gregory, everyone knows kids can be unpredictable, but can you tell us exactly what happened?

Gregory: We stopped at the westbound On Route at Cambridge/Guelph to tend to our youngest child and organize the back of the wagon a bit better. Our daughter was asked to stand by the door while I moved a couple of items, but for some unknown reason and unbeknown to either of us she wandered out into the exit lane, we believe probably heading to the park.

And that’s where John stepped in?

Gregory: As the other bystanders all informed us, John ran across the parking area and – almost being struck himself by two different cars – grabbed our daughter out of the way of a fast moving transport truck.

John, what went through your head as you took action?

John: Honest, as my wife will say, “nothing goes through my head without her approval,” haha. I did not think of anything, just that the child was in trouble. I saw the truck heading out, maybe the noise of changing gears drew my attention… I don’t know exactly, but I knew I had to do something.

Gregory, what was your initial reaction?

Gregory: We had no idea of what exactly transpired until after we calmed down and other people who were parked by us filled us in on what they saw. From what others bystanders said, John barely escaped death himself! The nice couple who described what they saw had said that if he had been even the slightest bit slower, we would not have our daughter today to hug and kiss and cherish, and you would not have such a great employee. John carried our daughter back to us and handed him to my wife. He did not even stay long enough for us to extend our gratitude or for someone to make sure he was okay.

John, you strike us as the strong silent type. How do you feel about being recognized and getting so much attention from the media?

John: I wouldn’t have changed a thing about that day except maybe taken the BlueWater Towing name off the door of my truck, so no one knew who I was… I am still embarrassed by some of the attention, some people I help in the city seem to remember and want to shake my hand and that is embarrassing still.

Have CAA or BlueWater Towing publicly recognized your actions?

John: CAA did honour me, gave me 500 CAA Dollars and paid for a lovely weekend for me and my wife during the conference at Deerhurst.

As for BlueWater Towing, my boss Carson and my G.M. Paul and his management team have given me a plaque in recognition of what I did, and that is a great honour and more than he needed to do.

It seems like everyone at CAA and BlueWater is pretty proud of you!

John: Carson is man of few words but what he does say is important. He told me he was proud of me, which meant more than anything else I was given. He has welcomed me to the BlueWater family and given me a great deal of responsibility by placing me in a new truck, as the only driver and making me responsible for that. And my area boss from CAA, Monica, always refers to me as “her driver.” It is the little things that mean more to me than anything else in life.

So you’d say you’re enjoying your time at BlueWater.

John: I will likely spend the rest of my life in a BlueWater Towing truck. It’s my home and my extended family, and for me that means a lot as I have had a hard time in life finding a place I feel I belong. Thankfully, I have found that in this industry with BlueWater Towing. They are a great group of people; a family of sorts.

Gregory and John, do you still keep in touch?

Gregory: We still speak with John a few times a week, but he truly is a remarkable man – very humble about it all. He does not fully understand how close to death he himself was, or does not see it as important as saving our daughter. I work in a field where I meet a lot of different individuals with different personalities, but never have I met a man who was so unselfish, or had the love for another human that they would disregard their own lives to save another without even a thought.

John: We have all exchanged photos and life stories. I do feel like a family member and they have invited me [to California, where they now reside] but I do not know if I will go. I would not know when, nor would I want to impose on them in any way.

Plus, I love my job, and if I took that time off I would feel I was letting down my boss Carson. As I said, I injured myself two days ago and have had to take time off, and I feel horrible about it. I feel I am letting him down.

The Burkes are coming in January for a visit here and we are making plans to do some skiing and sightseeing a bit for a belated Christmas. I look forward to meeting them under better circumstances. They are wonderful people and great parents, and I am glad I was able to make a difference in their lives.

We’d like to thank John and Gregory again for taking the time to answer our questions!