Alert news carrier saves life of former mayor

1/8/2014

SHAWNEE (AP) — An alert delivery driver for the Kansas City Star came to the rescue of a former mayor in the pre-dawn darkness of one of the coldest mornings in decades after hearing the man's cries for help.

SHAWNEE (AP) — An alert delivery driver for the Kansas City Star came to the rescue of a former mayor in the pre-dawn darkness of one of the coldest mornings in decades after hearing the man's cries for help.

Jeff Stockwell was delivering the newspaper in Shawnee around 3:30 a.m. Monday, when temperatures had plummeted below zero and created dangerous wind chills for anyone not properly bundled up.

He was working along a cul-de-sac when he heard what sounded like the wail of a cat desperate to get indoors, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/1dsPIMq ). Then he heard it again, and that's when he got out of his vehicle to investigate.

"It registered with me that it was something strange," the longtime Star employee said.

Stockwell saw a trash can on its side in the driveway of a house with an open garage door, and he found former Shawnee Mayor Tony Soetaert leaning against a vehicle inside.

Soetaert, 77, apparently was taking out the trash when he fell and couldn't get up.

"He was definitely scared," Stockwell said. "He said he thought he had been there about an hour."

Stockwell called 911 after unsuccessfully trying to get Soetaert up. By the time an ambulance arrived, the former mayor had a core body temperature of 92 degrees, which is classified as mild hypothermia, said Angela Fera, spokeswoman for Johnson County Med-Act.

Soetaert, clad only in a jacket and shorts, had begun to experience "a decreased level of consciousness," Fera said.

Soetaert, who was Shawnee's mayor from 1977 to 1989, was taken to a hospital in stable condition and admitted to the intensive care unit as a precaution.

"He clearly made a difference in this gentleman's outcome," Fera said of Stockwell.

Soetaert's daughter, Julie King, said her mother was asleep in the house and didn't hear anything. If Stockwell had not come along, it might have been hours before anyone else was up and about in the neighborhood, she said.

"I don't want to even think about it," she said. "We're so thankful for Jeff."

King said her father was doing much better Monday, but he was being kept at the hospital overnight as a precaution.

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