Dupre Transport driver named Highway Angel

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The Truckload Carriers Association recently recognized Sheryl Fink, of Gulfport, Miss., as a Highway Angel for her courageous assistance at the scene of a tragic accident that took the lives of three young men. Fink was headed north on Highway 49 in Saucier, Miss., on a recent Sunday at about 1 a.m., when she came upon a deadly accident.

“I could see an object in the road, so I slowed way down,” said Fink, who drives a gasoline tanker for Dupre Transport. “It turned out to be the back half of a pickup truck on its side. The truck had been chopped in half.” A minivan had hit the pickup as it pulled out of the parking lot of a sports bar located on the unlit rural highway with a 60-65 mph speed zone.

Fink saw the driver of the minivan standing outside his vehicle with his hands on his head, distraught and unsure of what to do. “I saw steam coming out of the vehicle,” Fink said, “It couldn’t have happened more than a minute in front of me.” Realizing she was the first person to come upon the accident, Fink found a safe place to pull her rig completely off the road, called her dispatcher, grabbed the cones and triangles from her truck, and ran to the scene.

She knew immediately the situation was dire, so when two teenage boys stopped to help, a calm and clearheaded Fink directed them to place the cones down the road to warn other drivers. “My goal was to first secure the area and make sure no one else gets hurt,” she said. Then she investigated the scene. One of the young men in the pickup had been flung half out of the side window.

“I could tell this boy was no longer with us because of the way his body was twisted,” Fink said. After checking his pulse, she pulled his coat over his head, and then went around to the other side of the truck that was lying smashed in the grass. Fink saw a pair of legs extending from the vehicle. She felt the man’s ankles to determine whether she could get a reflex or a sound from him, but there was no response.

After determining both men were deceased, Fink then assisted the distraught driver of the minivan, who kept repeating he needed to call his wife. She took the man’s cell phone and dialed his wife, reassuring the woman that her husband was OK before handing him the phone. Then Fink walked across the median and found another young man lying on the ground; he had been thrown from the truck and suffered a broken neck.

Fink said she waited for the police, who arrived soon afterward “in droves.” She gave a witness statement, picked up her equipment and continued on with her night. “All I could think of was, what can I do next?” said Fink, who kept her cool despite witnessing the deaths of three young men. “I was amazed that I was able to do what needed to be done in the heat of the moment.”

Fink said she was saddened by the loss of the young men, who were all in their early 20s, but she felt good about being able to assist at the scene and prevent further accidents. Fink received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch for her efforts, and her employer, Dupre Transport, also received a certificate for acknowledging a Highway Angel in their 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.