A former Tygarts Valley High School student lent a hand to three scared students Easter Sunday while he was on leave visiting family back in West Virginia.
SPC Joel A. DiStefano, 3-10 GSAB,10th Combat Aviation Brigade, from Fort Drum, N.Y., came upon an accident that morning and did what he had always been taught to do - he helped the victims until their parents arrived.
DiStefano said he had left North Carolina at 4 a.m. and was driving home and had just passed the toll booth on the Turnpike at Beckley when he came upon a vehicle in the road that had wrecked.
"It was apparent the vehicle had rolled, and two scared teens were inside the car, while one had been ejected," he said. "I administed first aid and stayed with the girls until emergency personnel arrived. The girls were so frightened, and I went with them to the hospital."
DiStefano said the girls were from Grove City, Ohio, and were driving home from spring break in Florida. He said he went with them to the hospital because they had no one in West Virginia, and it would take four-and-a-half hours for their parents to drive to Beckley.
DiStefano called the girls' parents, telling them what had happened and how to get to the hospital. He continued to call them and text them until they arrived, making sure they were safe on their long trip.
"At the scene of the accident, Kathy Bishop and Steven Tate also helped with the girls," Distefano said. "They arrived before I did and were helping the girls and helping direct traffic. They both work in Beckley and were on their way to work at the time of the accident."
Stacey Royster, mother of Mallory Royster of Grove City, said she is thankful for Joel DiStefano.
"It meant a lot to me that Joel called and let us know about my daughter's accident," Stacey Royster said. "I have never received a call from any law enforcement about the accident. Joel called us and let us know what happened, and where we could go to be with our daughters. He continued to update us and check on us on our long trip and he stayed with the girls until we arrived. It meant a lot."
Mallory Royster, one of the teens in the accident said the three had traveled to Callahan, Fla., during spring break and had stayed with Makaila Norman's aunt.
"We left Florida Saturday night around 8 p.m. and Makaila and I were taking turns driving," Mallory said. "It started raining, and so we switched drivers. I had been sleeping and woke at 6:30 a.m. It was raining very hard and we were behind a tractor trailer that had a large backsplash. Makaila pulled out to pass the truck, but there was a car in her blind spot. When she pulled back in, she overcompensated, hydroplaned and we hit the side of the mountain. Our car flipped and rolled two or three times. It was terrible. Our friend in the back seat was ejected from the vehicle."
Mallory said she was so grateful for Joel's help.
"He helped us calm down and stayed with us until our parents arrived," Mallory said. "We did not know anyone in West Virginia and he was there for us."
Stacey Royster said the girls have all recovered and are doing well.
DiStefano said he did not think he did anything out of the ordinary that morning.
"I'm not a hero," he said. "There are a lot more people who do more special things than me. I was just in the right place at the right time and it was the right thing to do. My reward was seeing the girls reunited with their parents again, especially on Easter Sunday."
DiStefano said he was merely doing what his father had taught him.
"My father always said people from West Virginia help one another, and that's what I was doing."
DiStefano is the son of Jonathan and Toni DiStefano of Huttonsville.
"We are so proud of Joel," said Toni DiStefano. "His father always told him to help others."