Right place, again

Chris Macklin finds man who spent night in vehicle after crash

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COEUR d'ALENE - Chris Macklin, so say his friends, has a habit of being in the right place at the right time.

Years back, when a woman was hit by a boat while swimming in the Spokane River, it was Macklin who helped her from the water and called 911.

"I've had quite a few situations I happened to be at the right place at the right time," he said. "My friends say I have a knack for attracting all the strange situations."

He was at it again Monday.

The driver for Coeur d'Alene Garbage was on his route on Highway 97 when he spotted a vehicle that had crashed off the road and rolled 30 feet down into a hole.

Macklin stopped, investigated, and found a man inside the wrecked Ford Ranger. He called 911 and very likely save the man's life.

"I'm just glad I could be there for him," the Post Falls man said.

The victim, Terry Smith, was in fair condition at Kootenai Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon. Smith declined a request for an interview.

Smith told Macklin he had been trapped in the vehicle since Sunday afternoon. He didn't recall what caused the accident.

Macklin said had he not been driving a garbage truck that offered a high vantage point, he would have probably missed the Ford Ranger almost hidden down a steep ravine.

"A lot of car drivers can't see it from there," he said.

Macklin was northbound around 8:30 a.m. near Carlin Bay when he saw the underside of a truck in brush off the road, resting on its top. He hit the brakes and pulled over.

He feared the worst.

"I was really nervous about what I might find," he said.

When he saw the windows were fogged up, he figured a person was still inside, breathing. It was then he saw feet, in socks, at the driver's window and called out. The feet moved.

Macklin felt relief. Whoever was in that vehicle was still alive. He ran back to his truck and called 911.

Then, he returned to the vehicle and broke the window with a metal bar to reach Smith, who was pale, shaking and hypothermic after a night in his Ford Ranger when temperatures were in the 20s.

"He didn't have the strength to kick the window or get out," Macklin said.

Macklin gave Smith his coat and talked to him until medical responders arrived about 15 minutes later, carried him up the hillside and whisked him to KMC.

"I'm glad I found you," Macklin said.

"I'm so glad you did, too," Smith answered.

Macklin has been driving the route five days a week, for nine months. Despite the hour and 15 minute delay, he still completed his rounds.

He said Tuesday he hadn't had a chance to talk with Smith to see how he was doing, but hoped to hear from him.

"I'm just happy I was in the right place at the right time," he said.


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