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News | Oct. 15, 2021

Logistician saves stranger from Kalamazoo River

By Kelly Burell DLA Disposition Services Public Affairs

Ronald Hobbs was on his way to grab a bite to eat on Oct. 12 when he witnessed a serious traffic incident that would significantly alter his lunch plans.

Man standing with hands behind back
DLA Disposition Services employee Ronald Hobbs
DLA Disposition Services employee Ronald Hobbs saved a man from the Kalamazoo River on Oct. 12.
Photo By: Kelly Burell
VIRIN: 211014-D-FL696-401
Hobbs, a Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services employee in Battle Creek, Michigan, was waiting at a red light when a car sped through instead of stopping. He watched as a blue sedan got sideswiped by the traffic violator, crashing it through a fence and down a 15-foot concrete embankment, where it landed in the Kalamazoo River. 

Worried, he placed his car in park, turned his hazard lights on and sprinted to the broken fence.

“I went over to the ravine, but I didn’t see anything,” Hobbs said. “I turned to the left and I saw the car. It was already under the bridge because the current was really strong. I could see somebody moving inside the car. Somebody needed help, I just wanted to assist in any way possible.”

Knowing the individual was in danger, Hobbs rushed toward the floating car, jumping a fence and racing down the embankment so he could help the 65-year-old man trapped inside.

“My adrenaline was really kicking in,” he said. “I don’t even remember jumping over a fence and I probably couldn’t do that today.”

After chasing the car 400 meters along the concrete ravine, he finally reached the man, who was able to escape thanks to instructions from Hobbs and another helpful stranger.  

The turbulent water was preventing the man from reaching safety.

“He was swimming, but he was moving backwards,” he recalled. “The water was too strong.”

Hobbs decided to run ahead so he could try and grab the man as he passed by. He remembered lying on the ground, waiting for the right moment to seize the victim and pull him to land.  

“Half of my body was leaning in the water and the other half was on the cement, “ Hobbs said. “I was able to grab his arm and I pulled him out.”

Hobbs and the other rescuer helped the man to the top of the ravine where Battle Creek police officers and firefighters were waiting.

“While I was walking [back from the scene], a lot of police officers and firefighters were thanking us for helping them,” Hobbs said. “We all shook hands and parted ways.”

The rescue lasted approximately 15 minutes from start to finish.

“[When this happened] I was out getting something to eat and after that I wasn’t even hungry anymore,” he said. “I just wanted to go home after that.”

Still processing what transpired during lunch, Hobbs called his supervisor Erik Rundquist to notify him.

“He kind of went [on] in a nonchalant way of telling me what happened, and I was like ‘wait a minute Ron, you’re a hero,’” Rundquist said.

Both Rundquist and Hobbs retired from the military after serving 20 years each. Rundquist, a contract specialist responsible for the Pacific region at DLA Disposition Services, said, “when you wear the uniform, you are there to serve. They teach you to respond to situations, and his training kicked in… He responded and not everybody does that.”

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Hobbs moved back to his home state after retirement in 2011 and began working with DLA Disposition Services in August of 2020.  

According to the Battle Creek Enquirer, no one was hurt in the crash and both drivers were checked at the scene by local paramedics. The car was recovered from the water later that day. The driver who ran the red light was issued a ticket for disregarding a traffic signal causing an accident.