It's not everyday a purse snatching happens in broad daylight along Route 1. It's even rarer when a stranger stops to help.
But that's exactly what Ricky Pennington did July 31 while driving down Route 1.
As he was sitting in traffic at the intersection near Camelot, he said he watched two young women cross the dual highway and approach another young woman who was walking north along the southbound lanes of Route 1.
Pennington said he watched the two women try to talk to the young woman; she shook her head in answer to whatever they had asked and brushed past them.
Then one of the women grabbed the departing woman's purse while the second woman punched her, Pennington said.
"I felt bad for that girl," he said. "It was two against one. The one looked like she was trying to hurt her. I was proud of her for holding on to her purse, though."
Sitting at the intersection, Pennington said he contemplated running the light so he could help the woman being attacked. Instead, he waited for the light to turn green, and he pulled into the Cracker Barrel parking lot as the fight was breaking up. The two women dashed into the entrance of Camelot, and Pennington followed.
"I was maybe 5 seconds behind them," he said.
The women ducked behind the white privacy fence lining the Camelot mobile home park and disappeared, leading Pennington to believe they were hiding in one of the nearby homes.
"The fence blocked my view," he said. "By the time I got around it, they were gone."
Something about July
This isn't the first time Pennington has been on the spot during an emergency.
About two years ago to the day of the latest incident, Pennington was in New Castle County ready to buy a hot tub when he saw a man collapse in a parking lot.
The man was about 40 years old and on his lunch break when he collapsed for unknown reasons, Pennington said. A group of people had gathered when Pennington arrived, but no one seemed to know what to do about the prostrate man. The man's skin was grayish, and he had no pulse when, Pennington said, he started CPR on him. Seconds later, color returned to his face and he was breathing again, although he did not recover consciousness while Pennington was there.
"I never knew what happened to the guy," Pennington said. "I gave the paramedic my information to let me know about him but nobody ever contacted me."
At least one good thing came out of the day – Pennington said he paid $500 for a new hot tub worth more than $4,000.
Marine Corps training
Lucky for the man, Pennington learned CPR and life-saving skills while on a four-year stint with the U.S. Marine Corps. The 34-year-old Huntington, W. Va., native joined the Marine Corps following high school – an homage to his grandfather who served as a marine.
Pennington said he served in Puerto Rico and the Middle East before returning to the United States. Growing up, he said, he always enjoyed family vacations to the beach with his parents, brother and sister.
In 2000, he visited an aunt in Lewes, and was hooked to the area.
"It's a lot more laid back than other beaches," he said.
Businessman and more
A year after his first visit, he made Lewes his permanent home – so did his parents, brother and sister. A son has since been added to the mix.
He started his own business, Pennington Contracting, specializing in home remodeling. He said he is particularly proud of a remodel job he did on Rodney Street, that was part of a recent Rehoboth Beach cottage tour.
"Updating homes built in the 1940s and 1950s while maintaining their original design, those are my favorite jobs to do," he said.
Work has remained steady for the self-made contractor, even in lean times a few years back, he said.
"It's all word of mouth," he said. "That's what's kept me alive."
Lately, he said, he has considered adding some permanent employees to his company, expanding his business beyond the subcontrators he currently uses. It's a line of work he enjoys, especially being his own boss.
In fact, Pennington said, he was on his way to a job when he came upon the attempted purse snatching.
"There's something about the end of July," Pennington said of his penchant to happen upon odd occurrences this time of year.
Pennington said he can't believe no one has yet identified the culprits.
Every time he drives down Route 1, he looks for them just in case.
"I remember what they looked like. If I see them I'm going to pull over and call the police," he said.