We Energies employee Mike Mathu was working in Royalton, a small town in Waupaca County, in late July when he heard a cry for help. A man nearby was partially trapped under a tree.
“The tree seemed to be thousands of pounds and couldn’t be lifted off,” said Mathu.
Mathu and his colleagues, Bob Suttner, Keith Reinert and Jeremy Peterson, were restoring power after tornados and high winds ripped down power poles and knocked trees and branches into homes and power lines. When the men heard someone was in trouble, they grabbed their chainsaws and rushed to help.
“What seemed like forever was probably only five minutes,” Mathu remembered.
Through teamwork, the crew cut the tree and lifted it off the trapped man.
When asked why they jumped into action, the men downplayed their heroics, saying that they did what anyone would do in that situation.
‘I knew he was in trouble’
Brian Hunter, an employee for the company, ran across a similar scene while he was working on a dead-end road in Pearson, a small town in Langlade County. Like the crew in the Fox Valley, Hunter was helping to restore power after the July storm when he switched from utility worker to life saver.
As Hunter worked on damaged equipment, he saw a man get pinned by a tree while using a tractor to remove it.
“I knew he was in trouble,” said Hunter.
He was indeed in trouble; the tree was across the man’s throat. Hunter jumped on the tractor and put it in reverse, hoping to relieve pressure on the man’s neck. He then grabbed his saw and cut the tree off the tractor, eventually freeing the man.
Hunter said the man thanked him for saving his life.
“I’m not sure what would have happened if I wasn’t nearby. I was just glad I could help him,” Hunter said.
Crews help across Wisconsin
Nearly 1,000 workers from We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service and utility crews around the Midwest teamed up to rebuild circuits and remove debris from equipment that was destroyed by hurricane-force winds and intense lightning after the July storms. They replaced or repaired over 700 utility poles, nearly 500 transformers and 80 miles of wire.
This small army worked together throughout Wisconsin’s most devastated areas to restore power to over 270,000 We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service customers.