The Truckload Carriers Association recently named Marten Transport truck driver James McDowell and Trucks Inc. truck driver Danny Carmichael as Highway Angels.
McDowell was recognized for assisting a young child who was choking. On Dec. 17, 2009, at about 11 a.m., McDowell walked into a truckstop in Kenly, N.C., to get a cup of coffee. He saw a group of people standing around a little girl who appeared to be about four years old. She was choking and already had turned a shade of blue, signifying that she had been choking for some time. A man – presumably her father – was hitting her on the back, but it obviously wasn’t working.
Sadly, McDowell was all too familiar with this type of situation. In 1998, his own son had died from choking. He was not present at the time, but afterward made a point of learning how choking situations should be handled. He always remembered the coroner saying that in some cases beating a person on the back is not enough to dislodge a foreign object. Stronger action is often required. So McDowell sprang to action. He grabbed the little girl’s chin, pulled her mouth open, reached in and grabbed and removed a chicken bone that was lodged there.
“It felt good to do for someone else what I wasn’t able to do for my son,” McDowell says. McDowell followed up by giving the girl mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but she already had started breathing again. He asked her if she would be all right, and she smiled and shook her head yes.
The family was so concerned about their child that no one noticed when McDowell slipped away back to his truck, and no one even thanked him for helping. However, they did notate his truck number, because someone later called Marten Transport to convey their thanks to McDowell and commend him for his quick thinking.
Carmichael, who was recognized for helping a motorcycle accident victim who was severely injured, was nominated for the honor by Jessica Riley, the sister of the 24-year-old victim. She told TCA that on Aug. 3, 2009, at about 2 a.m., her brother, Justin, was riding his motorcycle on Interstate 95 in Daytona, Fla., on his way to a camping trip. Apparently, a tour bus came up behind Justin and hit him, sending him flying across the pavement and into the center lane of the three-lane highway. The right side of Justin’s body was scraped “from head to toe,” according to Riley.
Carmichael had just made a delivery and was on his way to pick up another load when he noticed clothing strewn about the highway. “Well, someone lost a suitcase again,” he thought to himself, thinking of the many times he had seen such road debris during his 26 years as a professional truck driver. Then he came upon Justin pinned underneath his motorcycle and had to swerve to avoid hitting him. Bringing the truck to a stop, he called 911, put out reflective triangles and soothed and comforted the young man. He then used his flashlight to warn other drivers and protect Justin from being hit again.
Soon, other motorists stopped to help, including several other truck drivers who positioned their trucks around the two men. Their convoy provided headlights to supplement Carmichael’s weakening flashlight and kept other vehicles from slamming into the accident scene as everyone waited for emergency medical assistance to arrive.
Justin began rocking back and forth, probably from the severe pain and head trauma. He still was pinned by the motorcycle, and now gasoline was pouring on him. The other motorists wanted to carry Justin off of the highway, but Carmichael insisted that he not be moved until paramedics could arrive. This proved to be a wise decision, as Justin later would spend a month in the hospital, suffering from a fractured skull, two hematomas in the brain, bone flap, road rash on his right side and infections in his knees, but he survived and now is recovering. Carmichael believes he was just in the right place at the right time. “God did all the work,” he says modestly. “I was just there.”