Sanitation Shop Steward Rescues Forgotten Driver
Call it the case of the forgotten Department of Sanitation (DOS) worker. A plow driver who sat behind the wheel of his rig for a full day before officials remembered his plow was stuck in a snow drift on a busy Queens street.
It all began at about 10 p.m. on Sunday night, December 26 at the height of the snowstorm when a DOS plow driver aimed his rig at snow that buried 35th Street between 36th and 37th Avenues in Long Island City.
The driver never anticipated what awaited him when the truck became embedded in almost two feet of drifting snow. Blinded by a whiteout that made visibility nearly impossible, the driver did his best to free the truck from the precipitation but, alas, the snow was too deep.
Neighbors wrapped scarves around their heads, grabbed shovels and headed to the street to help the driver unleash the truck from the snow. The men pushed and shoveled, shook and juggled the truck, but it wasn’t going anywhere.
After almost two hours trying to free the plow, the driver climbed into his cab and notified his supervisors about his situation. Neighbors offered the driver the comforts of their homes.
The driver remained with the plow until early Monday, when a fellow driver arrived to wait for equipment that would free the truck. But the equipment never came and the replacement driver waited as newly drifting snow swirled around him, burying the rig deeper still.
Meanwhile, motorists who failed to notice the truck barreled up the street from nearby Northern Boulevard, running head-on into piles of snow. The motorists emerged one-by-one from their vehicles to free themselves from the snow.
The resulting chaos led one neighbor to phone the local DOS garage, where Shop Steward John DePalma learned of the snowed-in plow driver.
DePalma wasted no time in calling out the troops to rescue the stranded driver. DePalma called on supervisors who, in less than 30 minutes, sent additional personnel, two snowplows and a front-end loader to 35th Street.
It took some additional shoveling, jiggling and lifting to free the rig, which headed up 35th Street at about 7 p.m. True to form, the truck plowed its way out of the street, completing the task it set out to do almost 21 hours earlier.
DOS sources told the Gazette that, in the midst of the massive cleanup, paperwork was shuffled and supervisors overlooked the truck until DePalma reminded them it was still stuck in the snow.
“It’s really nobody’s fault,” a worker who helped free the rig said. “This was a huge storm that required all hands. It’s really not surprising that one piece of paper was lost in the shuffle.”