Hammer Hero Bob Martinka Saves the Day

Hammer Hero Bob Martinka Saves the Day

Quick Thinking Averts Serious Traffic Accident

Volunteer Bob Martinka was recently celebrated for his quick thinking during a Hammer Travel trip that likely prevented a serious accident.

Last summer, a group of 26 people that we serve, along with 10 staff members, boarded a chartered bus (with a hired driver) for a trip up north for our annual fishing trip on Gull Lake. About 30 minutes in, the bus driver experienced a medical emergency, and volunteer Bob Martinka, quickly sensing that something was wrong, rushed to the front of the bus. “I knelt down beside the driver and grabbed the steering wheel while stretching my leg out to put my foot on the brake pedal,” Bob recalls. However, the driver didn’t want to let go of the wheel. “I told him what was happening and that we needed to get the bus to a safe place, but he was out of it,” Bob says. Thankfully, Bob was able to maneuver the bus around cars and construction barricades, while avoiding the ditch, and finally brought the charter bus safely to a stop on the right shoulder.

One of the staff, Malik Mohamud, a Program Manager for three of our west metro homes, jumped in to assist Bob. “As Bob was assisting the driver in getting off the bus and staying with him, I quickly got into the driver’s seat as the engine was still running,” he says. “The controls were nothing like my sedan, so I had to figure out how to turn the engine off and put on the emergency brake.” Malik remained in the driver’s seat as Bob and the other staff kept the travelers calm until another bus and driver were procured.

“Captain Bob” Martinka

Bob has been volunteering on this annual fishing trip for eight years. However, he hadn’t planned to be on the bus for the drive up this time. “I was going to drive to camp later as I had a funeral to go to that day,” Bob says. “But the funeral was changed to a date that would have been in the middle of the boating excursion, so I decided to go ahead and ride along on the bus.”

Known as “Captain Bob,” the travel staff look to him to captain the pontoon they rent. He also makes sure everyone has fishing poles and makes the rounds baiting hooks. “It’s all catch and release,” Bob says. “We just have fun going and dropping a line and then reeling them in.”

Thinking back to the drive up to the lake, Bob credits the staff for everything they did that day. “The staff were far more aware of what was happening than the people we serve,” he says. The others had been occupied watching the movie or reading their book. “The staff did an awesome job of maintaining a sense of calm and making everything seem normal when we had to pull over and wait for a new bus and driver,” Bob says.

Getting ready for some fishing!

A Highway Patrol trooper, Officer Christina Winans, arrived just a short while later. “It was reassuring to have an official presence there,” Bob says. “She got on the bus and took the microphone and had a tremendous way of calming everyone.”

An ambulance arrived and took the motor coach driver to the hospital as the group waited for another motor coach and driver to arrive. “The staff were so good about keeping everyone safe and getting luggage transferred,” Bob says. “We finally made it up to Gull Lake about three hours late.” Bob says he is humbled to be a partner with the great staff who helped with this trip. “What they did was a huge part of the success of the trip and the wellbeing of everyone who participated.”

In November, Hammer hosted a small reception to thank Bob for his quick thinking and bravery in safely stopping the bus and averting an accident. He was presented with a Ralph statue and Officer Winans was on hand to help recognize Bob and present him with a MN Highway Patrol shirt. She noted that situations like this don’t normally end this well, but thanks to Bob’s efforts, all our travelers arrived at their destination safely.

Thank you, Bob, for all that you do for the people we serve. We are inspired by your dedication and caring spirit. Staff from the trip wanted to be sure you were recognized for what you did that day, and we are proud to designate you a Hammer Hero!  



  1. Greg Heiland

    Captain bob saved the day
    thank you for every thing
    that you do
    that was a very emotional day
    and i’m happy that every one is ok and safe

    • Jennifer Hipple

      Thank you Greg, so are we!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *