Hauling across the nation's highways 24/7/365, truckers are out on the road not only in every metro area but often in places and at times when no one else is around, and if there's some accident or emergency, their actions can mean the difference between life and death. For drivers Brian Snell, Terry McKnight and Jared Flach, the latest to be honored by the Truckload Carriers Assn. as "Highway Angels," that's exactly what happened.
TCA's Highway Angels program has recognized truck driver heroes for over 20 years. They are chosen because they showed "exemplary kindness, courtesy and courage" when they were just out doing their jobs but stepped up and acted to help someone in need.
Highway Angel: Brian Snell
It was late on a Friday last summer, June 8, when Brian Snell of Merrimack, N.H., a driver for Pottle's Transportation of Hermon, ME, was headed down I-95 in Westward, MA. He spotted a car traveling with no lights on going the wrong way on the highway and watched it suddenly spin out of control. He used his truck to block oncoming traffic and help protect the disabled vehicle.
Snell ran to the car, found the driver unconscious and began trying to resuscitate her. Having been a paramedic, that "was second nature," he said. The car's engine caught fire and Snell grabbed his fire extinguisher to fight back the flames.
He realized the car had crashed into another—that's why the spin-out—so he ran to check out the other vehicle. That driver didn't make it. "The car had crushed him," Snell said, and he returned to the first vehicle.
After helping extricate the still-breathing driver from her badly-damaged vehicle when medical responders arrived, Snell found there was a dog alive inside the other car. "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.
Highway Angel: Terry McKnight
Challenger Motor Freight driver Terry McKnight of Aylmer, Ontario, Canada was on I-75 in Cincinnati last October just heading into rush hour traffic. He watched a car speed onto the highway and try to cut to the middle lane.
But the driver didn't leave enough room and hit another car from behind, McNight recalls, causing that vehicle to spin out and come to rest facing oncoming traffic. The speeding vehicle flipped upside down and slid along on its roof down the lane before it came to a halt.
McKnight drove his truck up behind the car to shield it from oncoming traffic. He rushed to help the driver as she was trying to crawl from the wreck, called 911 and stayed until police arrived and he'd spoken with them.
As it turned out, McKnight was the only one to stop to help that motorist—others just drove by.
"Everybody's in a hurry," he said. "I was just in the right place at the right time. I made the decision to stop and block traffic from hitting her car—I didn't want to see her get hurt."
Highway Angel: Jared Flach
Jared Flach of Theodore, AL was heading east in the early morning hours as he pulled his truck out of a weigh station in Pensacola, FL. He drives for Groendyke Transport based in Enid, OK and was hauling a full load at the time.
Heading down the highway, Flach, a former fireman and EMT, came upon a burning vehicle. He stopped a safe distance back and ran to help, learning from others at the scene that the car had crashed into a tractor-trailer. The car then spun into an oncoming traffic lane and caught on fire.
"People were afraid to approach the car because there was a fire underneath the hood and they were afraid of an explosion," Flach said. A still-conscious and injured driver was inside but was pinned there by the steering wheel.
The flames were spreading, so Flach grabbed the fire extinguisher from his truck and sprayed at the engine. Another truck and RV driver also produced fire extinguishers that helped buy time before the vehicle might explode.
They slowed but couldn't stop the fire, which was consuming the engine bay and finally started spreading inside the vehicle. Having no choice, Flach and another driver at the scene pulled the injured man out of the vehicle and to safety as carefully as they could, and as they did so, found a woman laying outside the vehicle.
They pulled her to safety as well and waited until first responders arrived. Thanks to Flach and other motorists who'd stopped and the decisive actions they took, both the man and woman survived.