Amy Corman of Petaluma was driving to work in Santa Rosa Wednesday afternoon on Highway 101 when she came upon a scene along the northbound freeway and stopped near Cotati, where an Uber driver suffered a fatal heart attack behind the wheel and his two passengers leapt from the backseat of his Toyota Camry.
A woman who turned out to be a good Samaritan was assisting the male and female passengers after the harrowing incident just south of the Highway 116 offramp.
Corman, a caregiver for elderly and mentally ill patients, took instructions from the unidentified woman relayed from dispatchers on the phone and started performing chest compressions on the driver who the CHP identified Thursday as John Tobin, 50, of Petaluma.
“Even though she said he didn’t have a pulse, I went ahead and did the CPR,” Corman said.
The two women took turns performing CPR on Tobin before emergency responders arrived a few minutes later, Corman said. Tobin was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after 2 p.m., according to CHP.
Joe Laughlin, a close friend of Tobin, said he was a “do-anything-for-anybody kind of guy,” quick to make friends and enjoyed helping others. Driving for Uber was a natural fit for Tobin because he loved talking to people, Laughlin said. In his younger years, Tobin was a star high school quarterback at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael.
“He affected people. He was good to people,” Laughlin said. “I can’t even put it into words to be honest. He’s one of the greatest guys you could meet.”
The passengers in Tobin’s Camry, Lydia Thuku, 58, of Kelseyville, suffered minor scrapes, and Joseph Njuguna, 46, from Washington state, was not injured, CHP Officer David deRutte said.
They jumped out of the car after Tobin was obviously stricken ill about 1:35 p.m. and became unresponsive, then the car drifted off the road onto the shoulder slowing to about 5 mph.
“The spot where he left the road, he was heading toward a group of redwood trees, and I guess they decided that wasn’t going to end well,” said Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District battalion chief Mike Weihman. Tobin’s Camry didn’t end up hitting the redwood trees, and instead came to a stop.
Uber spokeswoman Carly DeBeikes saw a story Wednesday about the incident on the Press Democrat’s website and responded Thursday with a statement emailed to the newspaper.
“We are devastated by this news and our hearts go out to John’s family during this tragic time. Our thoughts are with the riders involved and their families as well,” DeBeikes said, noting the passengers’ fare was refunded.
Staff Writer Andrew Beale contributed to this story.