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Beckley native seen as hero in southern storm


Register-Herald courtesy photo  Beckley native Bill Slavey helps a stranded Florida driver get back on the road last week.
Charleston Daily Mail courtesy photo
Beckley native Bill Slavey helps a stranded Florida driver get back on the road last week.

By Charlotte Ferrell Smith

Charleston Daily Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The recent icy weather that caused chaos in southern states was no match for self-described mountain man Bill Slavey.

Slavey, 49, originally from Beckley, garnered a lot of attention on social media last week when a Florida television news crew caught him coming to the aid of dozens of stranded drivers.

Reporters from WEAR-TV arrived on the scene on Michigan Avenue in Pensacola to find Slavey clad in a tank top and shorts while assisting drivers who did not know how to deal with slick roads. He was hard to miss with his long white hair and beard.

“I always helped people my whole life,” Slavey said. “People were stuck. I had to get them out.”

He pushed some of the cars out of the ditch. For others, he actually got behind the wheel and drove the car through the icy patch.

Slavey was driving his wife to work at a hospital when he happened upon many stranded motorists.

The first one he helped was a nurse who also needed transportation to work. He switched vehicles with her so that his wife could take her to work in his four-wheel-drive Toyota truck while he drove the other vehicle to the hospital. He then retrieved his own truck and headed back to assist other distressed drivers.

“I’m a mountain guy,” he said. “There was three-fourths to an inch of solid ice on Michigan Avenue. I started helping at 6 a.m. Wednesday and was still doing it until 12:30.”

Helping the stranded motorists meant driving vehicles up a steep incline until the drivers could take over on their own to get to the flat land. Although roads in the area are generally flat, this one was an overpass above a railroad crossing.

He drove dozens of vehicles up the hill and pulled dozens of stuck vehicles with chains attached to his truck. Some people offered to pay but he declined. He said he doesn’t help others for profit.

One fellow was stuck with a child in the car. When Slavey offered to drive his vehicle, he got out of the car and nearly fell before Slavey caught him. The little boy looked at the bearded Slavey and told his father, “Don’t worry, Daddy. Santa will get us out of here…”

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