Highway Angels: Drivers recognized for helping motorists in need

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A number of truck drivers have recently been recognized by the Truckload Carriers Association as Highway Angels for going above and beyond in their respective duties to help others while out on the road.

Each driver received a certificate, patch, lapel pin and decals from TCA recognizing them as Highway Angels, and each drivers’ fleet also received a certificate acknowledging their driver as a Highway Angel. The Highway Angel program is sponsored by EpicVue.

The following drivers have recently been named Highway Angels:

Laurie CliffordLaurie Clifford Craig SutherlandCraig Sutherland

Laurie Clifford and Craig Sutherland, Bison Transport

Laurie Clifford of Prescott, Ontario, and Craig Sutherland of Bracebridge, Ontario, both drivers for Bison Transport, were driving westbound on Highway 17 in Ontario on Aug. 22 with Sutherland leading and Clifford behind him when they noticed a car ahead of them swerve into oncoming traffic at approximately 60 miles per hour, hitting a minivan head-on.

Both drivers stopped, and Sutherland went to the vehicle that had been traveling westbound, and Clifford ran to assist the minivan occupants.

Sutherland found a female driver trapped inside, then did his best to keep her alert and calm. There were three passengers inside the van, which had fallen down a steep incline. Clifford helped the driver and front passenger out, then went back to retrieve an elderly woman who was in the back seat. Her injuries were more severe, but she was able to sit on the side of the road and talk with Clifford.

Nearly an hour after the crash, police and emergency personnel arrived, with the ambulance arriving about 20 minutes later. When paramedics arrived, the injured elderly woman was passing away with Clifford at her side. The crew attempted CPR, but it was too late.

Sutherland stayed with the other trapped driver until emergency crews could cut her out of the vehicle. Clifford and Sutherland were on the scene for eight hours that day.


Eddie LoflinEddie Loflin

Eddie Loflin, Epes Transport

Eddie Loflin, a trucker for Epes Transport, was working his normal route heading to Sanford, North Carolina, from Lexington when he saw a motorcycle ahead entering the on-ramp and numerous cars and trucks maneuvering around him. As the biker began to merge, Loflin lost sight of him before seeing the biker thrown from his motorcycle and flung to the ground.

Loflin parked his truck behind the motorcycle so the rider wouldn’t get hit, grabbed a water bottle from his truck and sat down beside the injured man on the ground.

He stayed with the injured man, keeping him as comfortable as possible, until emergency personnel arrived. Loflin received a report later that the motorcyclist had several broken ribs, a broken arm and ankle, and a collapsed lung.


Mike JohnsonMike Johnson

Mike Johnson, Ruan Transportation

Around 4 a.m. on July 13, 2018, Missouri-based Mike Johnson was traveling on Highway 19 in Missouri to pick up a load in Iowa. As he approached Laddonia, Missouri, he saw something white in the ditch ahead reflecting his headlights.

As he got closer, the object popped out of a ditch, and he saw that it was a small child who was barefoot and wearing only a diaper. Johnson pulled over onto the shoulder and put on his hazard lights. The child came out of the steep ditch, holding just an orange sippy cup, and ran across the two-lane highway toward Casey’s General Store, which was not yet open.

Johnson got out of his truck and tried to carefully approach the child, but it ran back across the road and into a gravel parking lot, visibly frightened and crying. He caught up to the child and picked it up, tried to comfort it and called 911.  A police officer arrived and took the child to a local hospital.

He later learned the child was a little boy, and officials had located his mother. Johnson, a single father of a son, said he hates to think about what could have happened to the little boy if he hadn’t seen him when he did.


 

Denny CattellDenny Cattell

Denny Cattell, Bennett International

Denny Cattell was driving along I-80 in Illinois on Aug. 1 when he witnessed an RV come upon a large tire retread in the middle of the highway. Due to traffic conditions, they were unable to avoid it, and the tire completely removed the RV’s exhaust system, stranding the family on the shoulder of the interstate.

The driver of the RV, a woman in her 80s, was struggling to push the damaged exhaust off to the side of the highway.

Cattell stopped and offered his assistance and told the driver the exhaust system could likely be repaired. At that point, an Illinois State Trooper arrived and diverted traffic to the left lanes while Cattell put the RV’s exhaust system on his truck. The family then followed him to a shop he found, then he made sure the shop could handle the repairs before leaving.


Daniel BarnettDaniel Barnett

Daniel Barnett, Barber Trucking

Daniel Barnett, a driver for Barber Trucking, was driving on Highway 19 in West Virginia after loading his flatbed and heading to Buffalo, New York, when he saw brake lights up ahead. As he rounded a corner, he saw a two-vehicle crash in an intersection ahead, then noticed that motorists were frantic and struggling to open the driver’s door of a minivan.

Barnett then saw smoke coming from the hood of the van, so he parked his truck to divert traffic from the accident and went around to the passenger side of the minivan and broke the window. He then gave someone his pocket knife to cut the driver’s seat belt so a nurse on the scene could administer aid.

He then ran back to his truck and grabbed his fire extinguisher, but luckily what he thought was smoke turned out to be steam.


Keith BurgoonKeith Burgoon

Keith Burgoon, ABF Freight

Keith Burgoon was in Memphis, Tennessee, eating at a Longhorn Steakhouse after securing a hotel room for the night when a man he had been speaking with at the bar quickly stood up like something was wrong. Burgoon asked the man if he was OK, to which the man shook his head.

He then performed the Heimlich maneuver multiple times to no avail. At this point, the restaurant manager had called 911.

Finally, on his third and final attempt, Burgoon was able to dislodge the piece of steak from the man’s throat, allowing him to breathe.

Burgoon typically hauls from Louisville, Kentucky, to St. Louis, but changing freight had brought him to Memphis. “I told them I work for ABF Freight, and that I wasn’t supposed to be here that evening. But they told me that God needed me there that day,” he said.

The trucker is a dive master and was required to know CPR, the Heimlich and other life-saving techniques.


Wayne PlunkettWayne Plunkett

Wayne Plunkett, Ruan Transportation

Wayne Plunkett, a driver for Ruan Transportation, had just dropped off a tanker at Ruan’s Columbus, Mississippi, plant and was driving on Highway 82 when he saw a pickup truck cross two lanes of traffic at high speed and crash into a cable-wire guard rail.

He then saw the vehicle begin smoking and stopped to help. Plunkett grabbed his fire extinguisher to prevent the truck from burning while the driver was trapped inside.

Other motorists who stopped to help weren’t able to open the vehicle’s doors to help the driver – a woman in her 70s – get out, so Plunkett used the fire extinguisher to break the back window.

Emergency personnel arrived soon after and took the woman, who seemed to have had a medical issue, to the hospital.


Gary WestGary West

Gary West

Gary West, of Riverview, New Brunswick, was in a truck stop convenience store in Nichols, New York, when he looked outside to the trucks parked near the fuel island and saw flames from underneath a truck.

He then ran toward the truck and began yelling and beating on the passenger door, as well as the driver’s door of the truck next to it, to get the drivers’ attention. The flames under the truck were quickly becoming a large fire.

The driver of the neighboring truck woke up and saw what was happening and moved his truck, but West wasn’t getting a response from the driver of the burning truck. He could see smoke beginning to fill the cab, so he ran to the driver’s side, banged on the door and tried to rock the cab while trying to get the driver’s attention.

Finally, the driver of the burning truck came out from behind the curtain looking dazed and disoriented. West yelled at him that his truck was on fire and to get out.

Other drivers began moving their trucks away from the burning rig, and West managed to get the man to safety and waited for help.


Brian SnellBrian Snell

Brian Snell, Pottle’s Transportation

On June 8, 2018, Brian Snell was driving along I-495 in Westward, Massachusetts, when he saw a woman driving the wrong way on the highway then spin out in front of his truck. Snell, a former paramedic, then stopped his truck to block the road and protect the woman’s car because she didn’t have her lights on, then went over and started trying to resuscitate the woman, who he noticed was unconscious.

As he was trying to help the woman, he saw the engine was on fire, so he grabbed his fire extinguisher and began to put out the fire. Snell then heard someone yelling that they couldn’t get into a vehicle, and he saw that the woman had hit another car head-on before stopping. He ran over and checked the man’s pulse and vitals and realized the man had passed away.

When emergency personnel arrived, Snell helped remove the doors from the woman’s car so she could be rushed to the hospital. When he went back to the deceased man’s car, he saw a dog was inside.

“We got the dog to a vet and they were able to save and return the dog to the man’s family, which they were very happy about,” he said.

Snell later learned the female driver was heavily intoxicated and was charged with vehicular homicide.

Before getting into trucking, Snell served in the Marine Corps, then worked as a paramedic and was a rescue worker following Sept. 11, 2001, at Ground Zero. He lost a lung during the rescue efforts and had to leave law enforcement, so he started his career in trucking.


Terry McKnightTerry McKnight

Terry McKnight, Challenger Motor Freight

Terry McKnight, of Aylmer, Ontario, Canada, was driving in the middle lane on I-75 through Cincinnati on his way to Lebanon, Kentucky, when he saw a car enter the highway at roughly 70 miles per hour, cut across the right lane and try to squeeze between two cars in the left lane.

“She didn’t give herself enough room to make the lane change,” McKnight said, “and hit the rear of the car in front of her, making it spin around. When it stopped, it was facing oncoming traffic.”

The collision caused the speeding vehicle to flip upside down and slide on its roof down the road. McKnight followed the car, stopping behind where it came to rest, and positioned his truck to block traffic as the driver tried to crawl out of her car. He called 911 and stayed at the scene until police arrived and took his statement. One of the officers thanked McKnight for stopping to help.


Jared FlachJared Flach

Jared Flach, Groendyke Transport

Around 2 a.m. on Nov. 4, Jared Flach was heading east in Pensacola, Florida, when he saw a car on fire in the middle of I-10. He stopped his truck a safe distance from the scene, jumped out of his cab and asked bystanders what happened. He found out an eastbound car had struck the rear of a tractor-trailer, spun around and was facing oncoming traffic.

He noticed someone was still inside the car, so he approached and found a driver conscious and in pain trapped by the steering wheel that was jammed between the man’s ribs and belt. He then ran back to his truck and grabbed his fire extinguisher to knock the flames back. Another bystander brought another extinguisher to help battle the flames to help the driver.

Flach knew the man likely had broken ribs and legs, but he had to get him out of the burning car. Another driver helped him pull the man from the car as flames broke through the firewall into the cabin of the car. They got the man safely away from the scene, then ran back to make sure nobody else was in the car and noticed a woman lying outside the car.

The two men then moved her away from the burning car and waited for emergency personnel to arrive.

Flach was a firefighter and EMT before he was a trucker, so his training helped his instincts kick in to rush in and help the two motorists.