The Truckload Carriers Association announced Wednesday, May 13, that it is honoring FirstFleet driver Kerry Hammond as a Highway Angel for providing authorities with information that quickly led to the recovery of a missing teenage girl.
The incident took place on Jan. 16 at about 6 a.m. when Hammond had just made a delivery in Cedar City, Utah, and was driving his tractor-trailer along Interstate 15 south near St. George when he heard an Amber Alert on the radio about a missing teenage girl. Reyna Santelices, age 14, had been reported missing just hours earlier. Police thought she might be inside a red Honda with an older woman.
Hammond heard the Amber Alert again at about 7:30 a.m.; just seconds later, a car matching the description he just heard passed him. Although he was not certain it was the same vehicle, he called 911 and informed authorities. “I’m calling about the Amber Alert I just heard on the radio,” Hammond said to the 911 operator. “I think I just saw the car go by me.” It turned out that his hunch was correct; police pulled the car over a few minutes later and discovered the missing teenager and her alleged abductor inside.
A few weeks after Hammond made his call, the Utah Amber Alert Advisory committee reviewed the case with the Ogden Police Department. The committee and officers voted unanimously to give Hammond the Rachael Runyan Award, a special honor given to Utahns who respond to an Amber Alert to help in the safe recovery of a child. Hammond was only the eighth person to receive the honor.
Hammond is modest about what he did, but hopes others will take Amber Alerts seriously and respond to them if they think they have information about a case. “I’m not a hero,” he says. “I just did what I was supposed to do. I know Amber Alert works. I’m hoping other people driving a big truck or a moped will do the same thing.”
Hammond received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch for his efforts. FirstFleet, based in Murfreesboro, Tenn., also received a certificate acknowledging that one of its drivers is a Highway Angel.