HAGERMAN -- When your job involves working on power lines, trust from your fellow linemen is a must. Just ask a local Idaho Power crew. They'll tell you It's a kind of trust that can save lives.
“A lot of people call linemen -- like brothers,” said Kade Searle, a crew worker with Idaho Power, adding, "sometimes you spend more time with them than you do your family."
“Everybody is watching each other's backs because there is so much that could go wrong,” agrees fellow Idaho Power crew member Travis Wagner.
Recently, that trust among brothers was put to the test for five members of an Idaho Power crew. Both Searle and Wagner are a part of that crew, so is Matt Fredrickson, Mark Blacker and their foreman, Doug Koyle.
“It was the second night that we were in Hagerman when all that happened,” explained Fredrickson.
After the June 4th storm rolled through portions of southern Idaho, the crew was dispatched to a power line down in a neighborhood in the small town of Hagerman.
When the crew got there, they spotted someone needing help.
"Gene was his name -- he was on the ground,” said Fredrickson.
Searle was the first to notice what was happening. He saw the man lying on the road with a crowd of bystanders around him. He noticed something was very wrong..
“I got down there and I listened to see if he was breathing -- didn't hear any breath,” said Searle.
Searle ran back to his utility truck to grab a CPR kit. His crewmates were close behind him.
“We couldn't find a pulse, so we began chest compressions,” said Wagner.
“We were just taking turns as one guy got tired the next guy would step in,” said Blacker.
First responders from the Hagerman Fire Department were soon there to help. The crew from Idaho Power performed CPR for about 15 minutes straight, and then EMTs took over.
Workers with Idaho Power get trained annually on life saving protocols. Their line of work is dangerous already in nature, so naturally knowing how to resituate someone is needed, just in case.
Who was this man, and how did his heart attack happen?
Crew workers say they were responding to downed power line that had been damaged by a large, blue spruce that fell across 950 South Street in Hagerman.
Residents who live on that road, including Gene Silonis, experienced a blackout for days. “It had been so long,” Silonis said. “I was so irritated, that I decided I was going to cut the tree down.”
So he did.
Around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5th, Silonis finished loading the cut up logs into his truck bed. That's when his body started to feel “light,” as he explains it.
Silonis was having a heart attack.
“I started feeling those symptoms a week before, but I ignored them because I had been told I was too young,” Silonis said. However, the 37-year-old eventually collapsed, and that was about the same time the crew from Idaho Power was pulling up to repair the power line.
“I am glad that they had an idea what to do, because I was kind of blanking,” said Lacey Silonis, Gene’s wife.
Emergency responders rushed Silonis to a hospital in Twin Falls. He had an artery completely blocked. Medical professionals call it 'the widow maker,' according to Lacey Silonis. Doctors even told her early on that her husband was likely not going to make it.
But he did.
“We were really glad to see when he woke up and had his personality, and was throwing jokes It was nice to see him,” said Lacey Silonis.
Silonis says he does't remember much about that night. "I don’t remember too much of it, but from what I understand, the Idaho Power boys got me going and got me to Life Flight,” he told KTVB.
For someone that usually goes off into the mountains on wood gathering trips alone, Gene even admits the timing of all of it was actually quite perfect. “It could have been a whole lot worse if nobody would have been there right when it happened,” he said. “It wouldn’t have been the same turnout.”
Silonis said he is thankful to everyone who helped save his life. He even believes he got a second chance at life. However, Silonis has one important message that he wants others to know about.
He wants everyone to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and go to the hospital.
"I don’t care if you are 19 or 99,” he said. “If you are feeling symptoms of a heart attack, go. Don’t mess around, and don’t keep workin, go.”