GIBSON CITY — A Gibson City man is counting his blessings after being stranded in his vehicle with no heat for five hours Sunday, just as dangerously cold arctic weather and blizzard-like conditions were making their way into the area.
"I cried that whole five hours," said Emily Miller, whose 29-year-old husband, Randy, still could not feel the tips of his fingers Monday afternoon. "I thought he was going to die. I felt so helpless because he was just four miles away, and there was nothing I could do about it."
Randy Miller's survival story might have turned out differently if not for some strangers who came to his aid: Tim Barnes, John Leonard, Andy Rudin and Jason Peterson.
"We owe them his life," Emily Miller said. "We are so thankful from the bottom of our hearts that they were willing to go out to risk their lives to save Randy's. And we don't even know them. They are complete strangers to us."
Randy and Emily Miller moved to Gibson City in October, after Randy's job was transferred to Champaign. Around 5 p.m. Sunday, he was called out to work, and left for Champaign in his 2006 Hummer.
While headed south from Gibson City on Illinois 47, Randy Miller "was getting ready to turn around and just call in because he couldn't see the road even," his wife said. "He was going like 2 miles an hour."
His vehicle slid into a ditch about four miles south of Gibson City, and he could not get it out.
He first tried calling AAA using his cellphone, but the service said no tow trucks could get there.
"I realized I was stranded, so I was scared," he said.
Randy Miller's phone then ran out of power. Emily Miller said she grew concerned when she tried to call and "couldn't get through to him." But, she said, "we knew where he was because he had called us (earlier)."
"So I called the police," Emily Miller said. "The police couldn't get through to (Randy), so they sent an officer to look for him."
In the meantime, Randy Miller was able to recharge his phone, and he called his wife. She called the police to let them know she had heard from him.
"The police then notified me that their officer that went to look for him is now in a ditch," she said, "so they weren't going to send any more officers to help until the weather cleared up."
Waiting longer, however, was becoming more and more of a problem. The vehicle's heater had recently stopped working "and we hadn't had a chance to get it fixed yet," Emily Miller said. "We realized we needed to think of another way to get him into a warm place."
Emily called her sister-in-law, Rachael Edwards of Mahomet, who used the Internet to search for farms on Illinois 47.
"She started calling every number," Emily Miller said.
Edwards was able to make contact. After learning about the situation, Barnes, Leonard and Rudin organized a rescue mission.
Barnes showed up with a pickup truck and pulled Randy Miller's Hummer out of the ditch. It took about two hours, Emily Miller said.
"Randy had been stranded there for five hours before they found him," Emily Miller said.
"We just want to recognize them as heroes," she said.
Emily Miller said she also wanted to thank Jason Peterson, who helped search for her husband.
Emily Miller felt "pure joy" when her husband arrived home.
"I had a space heater and a heated blanket all ready for him," she said.