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Trucker rescues flooded teen while heading to wife’s hospice leave

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Trucker rescues flooded teen on his last shift before taking several weeks off for wife’s hospice care. 

62-year-old trucker, Tom Melillo, was on a regular route in Woodbridge, New Jersey heading south on Route 9 when heavy rains began flooding the roadway back in March. Melillo noticed several other tractor trailers make it through the waters, so he decided it was safe for him to pass, but that’s when he noticed a small car floating past. 

“It was a small, four-door black car,” he said to Patch News. “It was floating in the water. I could see very clearly it was floating; its back end was sticking up. The windows were all fogged up, but as I drove past I could see movement in the car. I said to myself, ‘There’s someone in there.’ I know it was a woman, because all I saw was long hair.”

Melillo says he got his truck through some of the deep water and pulled over before wading back into the waist deep water to check on the driver of the car. A teenage girl was in the driver’s seat, but was unable to open her door, so she crawled out of a window and Melillo started helping her out of the flood. 

“She kept slipping and falling into the floodwater. She would fall into it. She kept saying she was sorry and thanking me, but I told her I’m not her dad, don’t apologize. I just wanted to get her somewhere safe,” he said.

Melillo then grabbed the girl “around her collar” and hauled her up onto an embankment to wait for first responders to arrive. 

“I told her don’t drive through any more flood water! I am not doing this every day!” he joked.

After the rescue, Melillo drove home to Bayville to start his leave to help his wife, Rebecca, through hospice care. Rebecca passed away of cancer ten days later. 

Melillo was presented with a CPC Logistics President’s award for his heroic actions on May 14th at a steakhouse in Woodbridge. 

“Tom’s actions March 23 were courageous and brave,” Walgreens logistics manager Ryan Michael said at the May 14 ceremony. “Several other trucks drove by the stranded driver without stopping, so clearly not everyone would have done what Tom did. His willingness to take a risk and help someone in danger demonstrates what type of driver and person he is.”

“I’m just a truck driver,” he said. “Thank you for your condolences about my wife.”

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