TCA recognizes May Trucking driver as Highway Angel

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The Truckload Carriers Association recently recognized May Trucking Co. driver Troy Woods, of Payette, Idaho, as a Highway Angel for his selfless actions in the dramatic rescue of a woman trapped in her vehicle under water.

On an evening in mid-October, Woods found himself driving through a thunderstorm on Interstate 49 near Alexandria, La. Heavy rains had caused the roadway to flood, and soon traffic slowed to a crawl. Woods noticed several people had stopped and stepped out of their vehicles, and that’s when he realized accidents had occurred on both sides of the interstate. He parked his rig and went to investigate.

“I looked to see what people were staring at, and I could see the trunk of a car about 150 feet out from the roadway,” Woods says. “The rest of the vehicle was submerged underwater.” About a foot of water had washed over the roadway, apparently causing the vehicle to hydroplane and veer into a flooded drainage ditch before floating downstream and being pinned against a concrete culvert. “I didn’t know if anyone was in the vehicle, so my biggest concern was due to the fact that only the back windshield and trunk were sticking out of the water,” Woods says. “If there was anyone in that car, the only air they had was going to be what was in the car.”

Woods hollered to the bystanders that they needed to help, but no one was willing to venture into the water. “I was thinking, somebody needs to do something,” Woods says, so he waded out toward the vehicle. Someone tossed him a rope, which he tied around his chest while people on shore held the other end. The further he ventured out, the stronger the current got. “Out where the car was, it was real strong,” says Woods, who considers himself an average swimmer. “But I wasn’t thinking about the current. All I was thinking about was somebody needed help.”

When he reached the car, he heard a woman screaming. Realizing he needed to move quickly, Woods ran back to his truck, grabbed a small sledgehammer and returned to smash the vehicle’s side window located above water so the woman could get air. At that point, others on shore waded out to join him, including paramedics who had responded to the call. “The current was moving the car a bit, so I was concerned the current would grab it and continue to drag it downstream,” he says. “I took the rope around my chest and tied it to the axle of the car. Another guy tied the other end to his pickup truck.”

Woods then passed a rope through the back passenger window to the woman, who was frantic and still screaming. She managed to tie it around her chest, and while several men held onto the rope, Woods and a few others made a human chain by grabbing each other’s belts. “She was afraid to come out of the window, so I told her to take deep breaths and put her head under water so we could pull her out,” Woods says. “As soon as I pulled her halfway out the window, the current grabbed her and sucked her right out of the car.”

Knowing the woman was being pulled by the current, Woods did “the first thing that came to mind.” He dove under water and grabbed her waist. Together, the men forming the human chain pulled her safely up out of the water. Woods then noticed the rope she had supposedly tied around her waist floating away behind them.

Not until he had left the scene and driven to the next truck stop did the severity of the situation hit Woods. “I was about 20 miles down the road when I realized, you know what, this is Louisiana, and there was a lot more out there than just the current that could have pulled me under,” he says, referring to snakes and alligators that are known to frequent waters in the southern United States. Still, that didn’t change Woods’ reaction. “I knew whoever was in the car needed me. I felt like I did what needed to be done. There was no way I was going to walk off and watch that car sink.”

Woods received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch for his efforts, and his employer also received a certificate for acknowledging a Highway Angel in its midst. Since its inception in August 1997, the Highway Angel program has recognized hundreds of drivers for the unusual kindness, courtesy and courage they have shown others while on the job. TCA has received letters and e-mails from people across the country nominating truck drivers for the program.

“We continue to be amazed by the number of professional truckers who go out of their way to help a stranger and many times put their lives at risk as well,” says Nancy O’Liddy, director of public affairs and marketing for TCA. “TCA is proud and delighted to offer the kind of program that gives these drivers the recognition and support they deserve while at the same time creating a greater public awareness and appreciation for the many outstanding drivers in this industry.”

To view archival copies of past Highway Angel press releases, visit our website address at www.truckload.org/pressroom/index.htm#angelnews. To nominate a driver online, go to www.truckload.org/highwayangels/nominate.asp. For more information on the program, contact TCA at 703-838-1950 or via e-mail at Angel@truckload.org.