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Riverdale recognizes ?Good Samaritans'

By Ed Brock

Diann Harvey saw her only remaining daughter riding away in a stolen car, and then saw a man going after her.

It was July 1, nearly one year after Harvey lost her other three children in a car accident as they were returning from a church trip to Florida. A locket containing some of the ashes of those three children was in her purse in her Cadillac Escalade that a strange man had just taken from the Citgo gas station on Ga. Highway 138.

"When that carjacker pulled away with (Harvey's 5-year-old daughter Cheyenne and an 8-year-old friend) inside it felt like my world was being ripped away," Harvey said.

The man who followed the stolen car out of the parking lot and onto Taylor Road was Dana Wofford, one of five people honored Monday night by the Riverdale City Council as "Good Samaritans."

"When he pulled out he looked at me and I knew he was going after them," Harvey said. "I felt such a sense of relief to know someone was doing something to help."

The carjacker forced the girls out of the SUV at a nearby intersection and Wofford brought them back to Harvey. Even with the award given to him during Monday night's meeting, Wofford insists he only did what he hopes anybody else would do. He has children of his own.

"I'm recognized when I go to the store now," Wofford said. "People are like, that was a great thing you did."

The other Good Samaritans who received certificates from the council were Erin Whaley of Woodstock, Carmond Menefee of Riverdale and Stacey Salvino of McDonough. They comforted Harvey as she stood at the station shortly after the theft of her car.

They will be the first citizens to receive the Good Samaritan awards from the city but they won't be the last, Riverdale Police Chief Mike Edwards said.

"This is in recognition for ordinary citizens who go above and beyond what is expected, and they often do it at risk to themselves," Edwards said.

Harvey's Escalade was found at Lexington Square Apartments on Conley Road but the man who took it, and the purse containing the locket, were gone.

"(The investigator in the case) is working some leads off the cell phone," Riverdale police Officer Russell Rogers said. "The person made some calls from (Harvey's) cell phone."

On July 19, 2002, Harvey's sons, 15-year-old Jesse and 13-year-old James, and 10-year-old daughter Hannah were killed when two tractor-trailers hit the van they were riding in while returning from St. Augustine. In speaking engagements since that accident Harvey has said that it is her faith that helps her carry on.

Wofford's actions confirmed that faith, Harvey said.

"God put him in the place he did to help," Harvey said. "There's no way to thank him for what he did. Like I said that day he's my hero for bringing my little girl back to me."

Wofford made an impression on the other Good Samaritans as well.

"All I could say to him is ?You're an angel,'" Salvino said. "He was an angel."

Salvino and Whaley work together at Glaxo Smith Kline Pharmaceuticals and had stopped to ask directions at the gas station when the carjacking occurred.

"They called and asked if it was OK (that they stopped to help Harvey) and I said absolutely," said the women's boss, Kirk Peterson.

As for the missing locket, Harvey and her husband, Dwayne Harvey, said they just hope the person who has it mails it back to them.

"That's the only thing we wanted back," Dwayne Harvey said. "If they just bring that back."