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Friday, August 15, 2008

Everyday Towing Hero in CO

Kudos to Mike Hipszky for his heroic actions! Here's the story from The Daily Record:
Humble Hero

It has all the makings of a superhero movie — a wall of water, drivers in distress and a former Navy Seal buckling himself into a makeshift harness for swift-water rescue.

There is only one problem. Mike Hipszky, hero of this particular story, shrugs off his role in rescuing people from the July 26 flood at Copper Gulch, even though he risked his own life to save theirs.

“I’m no hero,” the soft-spoken 32-year-old said. “My dad is a hero. The people serving in Afghanistan and Iraq right now are heroes. My wife and daughter are heroes for putting up with me.”

Hipszky, a body-shop worker at Lindner by day, turns into a tow-truck driver by weekend. He had just finished a run up Copper Gulch Road late the afternoon of July 26, when the rain started.

“It was sprinkling just a little bit,” Hipszky said. “It turned really nasty, really fast. It was pretty crazy — I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Devastating rains dropped from a late-afternoon thunderstorm, racing down the flood-prone Copper Gulch area and stranding drivers. Strips of pavement dropped five feet straight down, and the road suffered severe shoulder and culvert damage. At least one lane of the road was completely washed away in three different places.

Safe in his 2004 Chevy Duramax wrecker, Hipszky had slowed to a stop when he felt the road beneath him start giving way.

“I was just sitting there, waiting for the water to go down,” Hipszky said. “It washed the road away from underneath the wrecker. I got washed off the road and started to worry — I didn’t want anything to happen to the wrecker.”

Even as his own safety shifted beneath him, Hipszky saw others in great distress and chose to focus on them.

“There were four or five cars that were stuck,” he said, including one that had literally washed down the channel. “People were out of and on their cars.”

Others had left their vehicles and made their way to higher ground.

“The water was so deep, it was washing boulders down,” Hipszky said. “It was really strong, really fast.”

So, he did what any hero would do — quickly created a makeshift harness out of ratchet straps from the tow truck. He attached himself to the wrecker’s cable and braved the rushing waters several times to bring others to safety.

“It was so hard to stand up. You had to lean into it so you didn’t fall over,” Hipszky said.

Another driver, a Marine — Hipszky didn’t get his name — helped reel him in using the truck’s winch.

“It was definitely a lot of water,” Hipszky said.

Hipszky admitted the adrenaline was flowing, probably making his actions seem easier than they actually were. He lost count of the number of people he saved.

More than four hours later, the ordeal was over, and Hipszky was able to drive away. The simple act of towing a car up Copper Gulch Road had turned into much more than he had bargained for.

Steve Lindner, owner of Lindner Chevrolet Cadillac Inc., said the wrecker was a mess after Hipszky’s adventures.

“It took us a good couple of days to clean that wrecker back up,” Lindner said. “The water was up to the doors. Weeds were floating in the tool boxes.”

Naturally, Lindner said he and the entire team at the auto dealership are proud of their colleague.

“He is just a great guy,” Lindner said.

Before he signed on with the Lindner team, Hipszky spent 12 years in the Navy, where he joined the SEAL special military forces. That reliable, disciplined and highly skilled maritime force operates from sea, air or land while employing stealth and clandestine methods.

Although reluctant to talk about his military service, Hipszky said he saw “almost every part of the world that has a shore,” spent time in war-torn Afghanistan and Bosnia. His duties there are undoubtedly the reason he downplays his role in the Copper Gulch flood of 2008.

“It wasn’t really that big of a deal,” Hipszky said. “It probably sounds a lot more impressive than it really was.”

A screenplay of the Copper Gulch flood, however, would tell a different story — one of honor, service, bravery and valor — with Hipszky as the hero.

Debbie Bell may be reached at dbell@ccdailyrecord.com.

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