Local 9 apprentice carries his UA Brother to safety

Local 9 apprentice carries his UA Brother to safety

On April 20, 2023, at 5:45 a.m., Anthony Spinella, a 22-year member of Plumbers Local 24, Lodi, NJ, was driving down the New Jersey Turnpike in his work truck, towing a sewer jetter while heading to a service job in Jersey City, when he felt a big thud. 

The next thing he knew, his truck flipped onto its side, skidded down the highway, spun in a circle and smashed into the guardrail. Spinella said he was heading north and by the time the truck stopped moving, it was pointed south. 

“The passenger side was on the ground and the driver-side door was pointing to the sky,” Spinella said. “The radio was on, but I couldn’t hear anything. It was silent, and I was sitting in the driver’s seat sideways, looking out of the windshield, and the headlights were lighting up the road, and I said to myself, ‘Well, I guess this is it. It’s over,’ and then I lost consciousness.” 

Third-year Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9, Central NJ, HVAC apprentice Jarrett Dial was heading to the same Jersey City service job, following behind Spinella. 

He was a few car lengths behind Spinella when he watched a reckless driver in the left lane veer into the middle lane and smash into the back left of the sewer jetter Spinella was towing. 

After gaining consciousness, the first thing Spinella saw was Dial standing in front of his truck looking into the windshield. 

“I couldn’t make out what he was saying at first,” Spinella said. “He was hollering to wake me up and I remember opening my eyes and it was daylight. When I saw my Brother there, I felt safe.”

The truck and the sewer jetter both had a full tank of gas and inside the truck were glues, primers, a B Tank, tools and other dangers.

Spinella said if something would have sparked up, the truck would have turned into a giant bomb. He said Dial didn’t worry about his own safety for one second when he sprang into action to get his Brother to safety.

“There was a weird smell and smoke dust from the airbags and he just reacted. He climbed up the side of the truck and opened the door. I was able to release the seatbelt,” Spinella said. “He pulled me out of the truck, got me to the ground, picked me up and carried me a good 20 feet away from the crash.”

Spinella and Dial didn’t know if there were fluids on the ground or if the truck was going to catch fire. 

“He is my hero,” Spinella said about Dial. 

Union Brotherhood saves lives 

Dial said he felt devastated as he watched the truck crash and said he told Spinella a thousand times he was going to get him, even if he smelled gas. 

“I was thinking the car was going to go up in flames first because as soon as I got there and was looking at him upside down, I did see fluid on the ground and that’s when I decided I needed to get him out of the truck right away,” Dial said. “I got on top of the truck and I cut the airbags out and got him away from the seatbelt and maneuvered him up and I fireman carried him to the guardrail.”

Dial said they were the only two on the scene for five minutes as cars were flying by them on the turnpike. Both Dial and Spinella work for Mid-Atlantic Service 360 and had worked together a few times before the accident.

“It could be the first day on a new job, or you’ve been working with somebody for 10 years,” Spinella said. “But our training and our commitment to each other is there. Any job could go sideways and we have to rely on each other to make sure that we get each other home safe at the end of the day.” 

Before joining Local 24, Spinella worked non-union, and believes that union solidarity helped save his life. 

“Jarrett put himself aside and took care of me. I worked non-union a long time ago, and I’ve worked with guys who wouldn’t know what to do. They wouldn’t have been there,” Spinella said. “He stayed with me. He got to the hospital before my family did. He sat in the emergency room with me and he talked to my wife and my mother to let them know I was alive.”

Spinella is safe at home, rehabbing from his injuries, and is thankful to be alive. The accident left him with a new perspective on life and he is more than grateful that his UA Brother was with him that day. 

Dial comes from a fifth-generation union family and was surprised to receive a Certificate of Honor from Mid-Atlantic Service 360. His fifth-generation union family and his UA family are proud of his bravery and heroism.