The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 16, 2013

Hero in the right place to save injured biker

— When Kevin Rhoades went to work the night of April 12, he figured he would be delivering Pepsi products, not saving the life of a motorcyclist.

Rhoades, a truck driver for Laurel Bottling Co. in Richland Township, had made one delivery, but left early when his second delivery was not ready.

The Ferndale man was heading down Eisenhower Boulevard in Richland just before 1 a.m. April 13 when he saw a fire on the other side of the road while rounding a curve.

“I thought, ‘Who would be burning (debris) that late at night?’ ” Rhoades said.

The fire was growing rapidly, he said.

“Because it was so close to the road, I was able to look under the guardrail and see the shape of a person lying there,” he said.

Rhoades, realizing there had been an accident, pulled over and reported the crash over his cellphone as he was running across the roadway to help the motorcyclist.

“He was on fire,” he said about Ryan Dalla Valle, 33, of Windber.

After crashing, the motorcycle caught fire, as did Dalla Valle.

Rhoades put out the fire on Dalla Valle by patting it with his hands.

But with the fire burning elsewhere and the gasoline fumes in the area, the fire reignited on Dalle Valle again, Rhoades said.

Rhoades pulled Dalla Valle away from the motorcycle and put out the fire on the motorcyclist a second time.

Another pickup then stopped to help and directed traffic until police and an ambulance arrived, he said.

“We need more people to stop and help like that truck driver did,” Rhoades said.

“It’s important to help another person. It would make the world a better place.”

Dalla Valle, the father of Emma, 3, and Oliva, 1, received severe burns. Doctors had to amputate his right arm and left leg.

Rhoades said he, his wife, Dorinda, and their children, Taylor, 15, and Abigail, 5, attended a benefit for Dalla Valle on June 8 at Windber Hotel. Another one of their children, Cullen Kozak, was working in Pittsburgh.

At the event, Rhoades was presented with a plaque for saving the life of Dalla Valle by the motorcyclist’s family.

For his efforts, Rhoades is the Person of the Week.

The motorcyclist’s father, Joseph Dalla Valle, said his son, who attended the June 8 event, still is recovering but is doing well.

“What can you say about someone who saved your son’s life?” he said about Rhoades. “It super-cedes words.

“You could never repay anyone for the act of heroism that night.

“It’s phenomenal what he did on the spur of the moment. He had no regard for his own safety.”

“He went in there and did what he had to do to keep Ryan alive. He pulled him away from the fire and put it out with his bare hands.

He said the community has been marvelous, donating $47,000 for medical care and the prosthetics that will be needed.

“I can’t believe the generosity of people whom we know and don’t know,” he said.

Ferndale Mayor Edward Dallape, a friend of the Rhoades family, said Rhoades was an angel that night by being in the right place at the right time.

“I don’t think that anybody could expect any more from an angel than what Kevin did that night.

Dallape described Rhoades as a quiet person.

“When you are around him, he’s almost invisible,” Dallape said. “But he has proven that he has the heart of a lion when there is a critical situation.”

For people wishing to help with Dalla Valle’s medical bills, checks can be made payable to Rally for Ryan and sent to Slovenian Savings and Loan, 1512 Jefferson Ave., Windber, Pa. 15963.

Donations can be made online at http://bit.ly/RallyforRyan.

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