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Out of the doghouse: Adrian man to the rescue after man’s best friend takes semi for a joyride

An eyewitness catches the “guilty” pooch looking down at Joe Springman, center, who stopped the runaway truck from striking gasoline pumps. Submitted Photo/David Stegora 1 / 2
A Freightliner “driven” by a labrador drove over a tree and struck a parked car Friday in Mankato. Submitted Photo2 / 2

MANKATO — Friday afternoon began as any other for Joe Springman, 24, of Adrian. He was traveling to Eden Prairie to visit his girlfriend when he stopped at a Kwik Trip for gasoline.

That stop would make him a small-time hero when man’s best friend took a seat behind the wheel of a semi-tractor and trailer.

Around 2:20 p.m., multiple witnesses at the Kwik Trip watched as a 2004 Freightliner semi-tractor and trailer that had been left idling in the Wilson Trailer Sales parking lot crossed North River Drive near U.S. 169 while the trucker was away. The truck hit a tree and then struck a parked 2014 Ford in the gas station parking lot, according to Mankato Public Safety.

“I was just about ready to start pumping some gas when I looked over and I saw this semi coming up on the curb and pushing this tree,” Springman said. “I looked over, and I’m just like, ‘What the heck is going on over there?’ … It was pushing a car, too, so I ran over as fast as I could, and I saw a dog just sitting in the window on the seat and it’s like, ‘Where’s the driver at?’”

Fortunately, Springman has a CDL; he has driven plenty of trucks himself and knew what to do to stop the vehicle. Springman said he opened the door, pushed the labrador retriever out of the driver’s seat, took the truck out of gear and put the other parking brake on.

“The driver was nowhere in sight and the dog was just sitting in the driver’s seat,” Springman said with a snicker. “I don’t know how he could have possibly got it into gear. I don’t know if it was a malfunction in the truck or what, but it was going and it wasn’t really stopping.

“If it wasn’t for the tree and that car, I think it would have got those pumps. It was going pretty good.”

The Minnesota State Patrol and Mankato Public Safety inspected the vehicle Friday and placed it out of service. A press release from Mankato Public Safety said it is unknown if the dog played a role in putting the truck in gear.

No citations were issued regarding the incident, and no one was injured. The semi-tractor and trailer is owned by Jarvis Dallman of Wells. Both the tree and parked car received damage.

Springman acknowledged that it could have been a much worse situation than it was.

“I was just so nervous,” Springman said. “I thought it was going to hit those pumps, because, you know, you see that in all of the movies and stuff, and it can cause an explosion. ... I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to see that. … I’d better jump in there quick and stop it.’”

The story has been picked up by news media outlets around the world and has went viral on social media. While some may brand Springman a hero for averting what might have been a disaster, he doesn’t see it that way. Humbly, Springman says he was just in the right place at the right time.

“I wouldn’t say that (I’m a hero),” Springman said. “I did what I needed to do.”

Robin Baumgarn

Robin Baumgarn is a new reporter for the Daily Globe covering the Education and Northwest Iowa beats. Prior to coming to the Globe, she worked for the Ocheyedan Press-Melvin News, a weekly Iowa paper for three years. She is a 2012 graduate of Iowa Lakes Community College and lives in Northwest Iowa with her husband Ryan and three pets, Fidget, Missy and Samwise.

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