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May 28, 2009 - 9:21pm

Medina pastor who helped stop runaway tractor on Main Street tells his story

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

tractorPastor Rod Klinzing of Medina doesn't want anybody making a big deal over his heroics Tuesday when his efforts may have helped saved the lives of two people trapped inside of a car being pushed sideways by a tractor down Main Street.

He's slightly embarrassed that his wife Janice contacted The Batavian Wednesday afternoon, saying, "I am  so terribly proud of my husband who did what seemed right.  And it was right.."  (Because of my travels, I had no time to interview Rod until this evening).

Klinzing was the first to jump on the tractor and try smashing his way through the window.

"We heard a terrible noise with car horns going off and we had no idea what was going on until the tractor drove right in front of us pushing the car along and we could see inside two people still in the car and they were just panic stricken and absolutely helpless," Klinzing said.

(LISTEN: Full audio interview)

The pastor said he then ran up to the to get the attention of the driver, Neil Phelps, saying, "I thought perhaps he just didn't know."

"I came to realize he wasn't responding," Klinzing said. "He wasn't responding to me and he wasn't responding to anybody else who was yelling and screaming."

When he realized that eventually the trapped car would either be turned over or pushed into a stopped car ahead, Klinzing said he had to act. The tractor wasn't moving that fast, so he decided he could jump aboard.

"Pounding on the window didn't seem to do anything," Klinzing said. "The door was secured from the inside and I couldn't open it, and I just tried to get his attention. He looked at me in kind of a very dazed state. No emotion whatsoever and just kept on driving."

That went on for what seemed like a while, Klinzing said, so he decided to try and make eye contact to get the driver's attention.

"He did and that's when I made a motion pointing at the key, 'turn it off, turn it off,'" Klinzing said. "I was pleased that he actually responded to that. My pounding on the window, he didn't respond to at all.  I made that motion. He turned it off. He sat back, and that was basically the end of the story"

Klingzing said another man did jump on the tractor and start pounding on the window, probably Jerry Newell, but Klinzing said he told the man the pounding was ineffective.

"He probably has a pretty sore hand at this point because he smacked it pretty hard," Klinzing said.

Klinzing said at the end two police officers did jump on the vehicle and managed to gain entry from the other side of the tractor cab.

While people worked to extract Gene Laney and his passenger from the car stuck in front of the tractor, Klinzing said he said next to the cab and made sure the driver didn't turn the tractor back on, and then he left the scene.

Batavia Police Chief Randy Baker told WBTA yesterday that the two officers who assisted at the scene were Chris Camp and Matthew Baldwin.

George Richardson
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Joined: Dec 10 2008 - 9:33am
Howard, You filled in the details quite well. I'm very impressed. I still think you are holding out on the YouTube video. The tractor stopped near the corner of Union and Main, as best as I could gather from Google Maps. No one really said, except me. I like the details and I like http://www.thebatavian.com Keep it coming man.
Beth Kinsley
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I see that WBTA is using your picture on their website (and of course giving credit to The Batavian). Good coverage Howard.
Howard B. Owens
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Thanks, George. Look at the original post. It has the address. It was just west of Settlers (I parked there and then had a quick dinner and did my initial post from there).
Mardell Lamb
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Pastor Rod Klinzing is a hero! If only the world was made up of more people like this brave man. Thank you.
Bob Price
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This story may be getting a few views this weekend-there is a link to this story from this site on a Rochester radio station website.Any more info on tractor driver??? A thank you goes out to the brave souls who jumped on the moving tractor to help stop it.I am guessing the tractor was moving slowly,or else they wouldn't have been able to jump onto it.
dennis wight
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nice job, Howard!! You blew the Daily's story out of the water. Mark keep deleting my posts that pointed that out....hahaha
Howard B. Owens
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Thanks, Dennis. :)
Russ Stresing
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No matter how many times I re-read the stories about this incident, it never ceases to impress me how matter-of-factly people jumped to the aid of others. I shudder to think what might have happened if they had just watched. Without question, they are heroes.
Lorie Longhany
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It is an amazing story of courage. My mother-in-law is an acquaintance of Gene Laney -- her next door neighbors brother. So many people grateful for the bravery of Pastor Klinzing and Mr Newell. They risked serious injury to save two strangers. I can't imagine the shear terror Laney and his passenger went through as their car was pushed down the street.
dennis wight
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I agree, Russ. I just found the differences in accounts "interesting"

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