America’s streets and highways can be a dangerous place. Injuries and fatalities in traffic accidents have been on the rise the last few years as Americans increasingly take to the road, and one need only drive to and from work to see the dangers facing all of us every time we (hopefully) strap on our safety belts and get behind the wheel. We like to think that if we or those around us were in danger that we’d know what to do, but no matter what, thankfully, there’s a huge and hard-working class of professionals who are more aware of on-the-road dangers than anyone:
The men and women of our truck driving elite are logging billions of miles a year while most of us are seated comfortably at our desks. At the end of a grueling day, while most Americans are fixing dinner and watching Netflix, enjoying a quiet evening at home, these Heroes of the Highway are bedding down in the backs of their sleeper cabs across the country, preparing to climb back in the saddle the next day. Their daily commute is all day long, delivering everything that makes our nation the most comfortable nation in world history.
It comes as no surprise, then, that in times of roadside crisis truckers might be first on the scene, and it follows naturally that truckers would be better equipped than most to handle the transportation-related mishaps that are so much more a part of their daily lives. Still, as with any brave profession, there are shining examples of heroism; instances of bravery so far above and beyond the call of duty or human decency that they give one pause. We’ve scoured the internet for stories of hero truck drivers, and selected just a handful from among the thousands of available examples.
5. Barry Williams
Owner-operator Barry Williams, of New Line Transport, Moundville, Alabama, was spending another typical day in the cab, driving along Highway 80 near Demopolis, Alabama, when he witnessed a terrifying sight. A passenger car, being piloted by 69-year-old Octavia Wagstaff, was accidentally forced off the road by another truck right before his eyes. As Mr. Williams looked on, the car careened out of control, missed the guard rail, and vaulted from the roadway into an adjacent creek.
“She probably was maybe a good truck and a half in front of me. So, when the truck passed by me in the left lane, he cleared me at least by a truck and a half. He come straight over on her,” Williams recalled for The West Alabama Watchman. “As he hit her, he caught her back bumper, kind of went down her driver’s door and she spun around. She went around the guard rail. She missed the guard rail, but she went airborne. As she went airborne, she went straight down and the car twisted around.”
Barry Williams stopped immediately and sprang from the cab, running to the side to see what was happening to the imperiled vehicle. He watched the car sink for only a moment before seeing what looked to him, “like she was taking her last breath.” Rather than running to the end of the bridge to climb down to the shore, Williams dove from the bridge deck into the creek below to initiate rescue.
According to Octavia Wagstaff’s brother, Robert, this split-second decision may have been what saved his sister’s life. “If he had had to go around the side of the bridge and come down, she’d have never made it,” Robert told The Watchman, “so he jumped over.”
After struggling to force the car door open, Williams had to dive underwater to remove Ms. Wagstaff’s seatbelt. At that point, he and another passerby who had joined in the effort managed to get the victim up onto the bank, where first responders where able to take over.
Demopolis Police Chief, Tommie Reese, praised Barry Williams’ actions. “When you look at social media today and where we are in society, so many people want to pull their phone out and record stuff, but not want to help. I think what Mr. Williams has done was admirable,” he said, adding, “[…] he risked his own life to save another life.”
Ms. Wagstaff received numerous injuries, including two broken ribs, a broken sternum, and multiple lacerations, but thanks to the quick thinking and heroic actions of Barry Williams, she survived.
For his part, Mr. Williams might have been in mild shock as he climbed back up into the cab to continue with his day. Kala Williams, Barry’s wife, laughed as she recalled the afternoon of the incident. “He called me. I guess he was still freaked out,” she said. “He acted like it didn’t happen for a while. I guess it took a while for him to process what had happened. The biggest thing he said was, ‘I didn’t get my load. I missed my load.’”
He was given a Key to the City of Demopolis by the Mayor, and a Medal of Valor by the Police Department. Beyond that, he’s certainly earned our respect. Here’s hoping Barry stays fully loaded and bravely trucking in this life and the next!
4. David Fredericksen
David Fredericksen had installed a dash cam in his truck just six months earlier, according to Jalopnik, after witnessing another truck involved in a rollover accident when its driver fell asleep behind the wheel. This fateful day in August, 2014 (yes, the date on the dash cam footage is wrong), the camera was rolling as one moderately busy stretch of the I10, near Biloxi, Mississippi, was converted to a horror show. A Lincoln Towncar being piloted by a woman with her one-year-old granddaughter on board failed to merge and t-boned an 18-wheeler, causing a terrifying fireball which consumed the car with its occupants trapped inside.
We watch in horror after the fact as the car burns. What isn’t clear from the video is that the driver has suffered a broken leg, and is unable to extricate herself and her tiny grandchild from the fiery wreckage because the doors have been jammed shut by the force of the impact. Knowing what we know now, we hold our breath as another vehicle skirts around the carnage, and still more vehicles come to a stop. Then, heedless of the terrific danger, Mr. Fredericksen hops down, fire extinguisher in hand, and jogs bravely and stolidly toward what might have been his death.
“I don’t feel it’s heroic,” he said in a later phone interview. “Really what I feel is when I first got out of the truck, I was praying that they wouldn’t be dead. I just wanted to put the fire out, but when I saw they were alive, I was like “SWEET!”
As David came upon the vehicle, he saw the driver fighting to kick her door open despite her broken leg. Other heroic drivers, including David’s team partner, rush forward to help as David uses his considerable bulk to haul the door open. It’s at this moment that he discovers the baby.
Divine providence had seen fit to deliver an angel in the form of David Fredericksen, and had further provided that the child’s car seat should be thrown from one side of the Towncar to the other, just clear of the fire which might have otherwise engulfed it immediately. In the video, we see David’s co-driver remove the tiny child from her car seat and carry her clear of the immediate scene.
“She was the cutest little thing, too,” Fredericksen recalls. “She was hugging him so tight she was choking him.”
Displaying modest faith, David refuses to accept the credit for his outstanding bravery. “I trusted in God when I went there. It could’ve blown up and killed me. He’s got a plan for me, because after I got back to the truck my hands were shaking. My actions were because of my love for God and love for people. Because it does make a difference.”
Then, as though this weren’t enough to endear David Fredericksen to us for life, he goes on to give a shout out to all his truck driving brothers and sisters: “If anyone learns anything from it, I want them to know, if they see these trucks out there, they’re not bad people with aggressive drivers. They’re good people.”
3. Kevin Kimmel
The details of this story read like something taken from the pages of a horror novel, and if that story had a hero it would be Kevin Kimmel. On starting his day January 6, 2015, Mr. Kimmel couldn’t have known that so much was set to turn on a dime. When he stopped at a gas station in New Kent County, Virginia, what he witnessed was something he couldn’t ignore, and his subsequent call to law enforcement would rescue a 20-year-old woman and change the course of his own life.
What he saw was a haunted face in the window of a parked RV nearby. The recreational vehicle had initially caught his eye because its blacked-out curtains were drawn. He then watched as a man approached the RV and climbed inside, and further observed the RV begin to rock back and forth. It was at this point that Kimmel saw the face of what he then described as a ‘minor female’ appear, peering through the curtains, before being abruptly withdrawn.
Kevin scrambled for his cell phone and placed a call to the local sheriff. He then continued to watch as police arrived and escorted the young woman away, soon followed by a man and woman in handcuffs. Police and FBI agents took his statements, but he wouldn’t learn of what he’d uncovered until watching the news later.
The woman he’d rescued had been lured away from her home in Iowa by a couple, Laura Sorenson and Aldair Hodza, who were bent on abduction and unthinkable acts of sadism. The full account (Warning: contains explicit details of torture and sexual assault) of their activities over the next several days is truly gut-wrenching. In short, their victim was being tortured and sold for sex. They would ultimately be sentenced to over 40 years apiece for their crimes.
Kimmel still drives, and today he shares his experience with attendees at anti-trafficking events across the nation. “[Traffickers] are constantly moving these people. They stay in the darkness. That’s why they can’t be anywhere too long,” he explains. “But when you’re moving them, then you come into my world. If we know the signs and are vigilant then we can make a big piece of this problem go away.”
Kendis Paris, of Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) shares this sentiment. TAT is dedicated to educating truckers as to what they need to watch for to help stop these types of crimes, and how to go about reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement.
2. Darrell Cloyd
A wrong turn was the only reason Darrell Cloyd was on Hwy 70. The family of Dorothy Marko is eternally grateful for his error, however, and we feel certain he can be forgiven that and a great many other things. Sadly, unlike our other stories, Ms. Marko did not survive the accident that Darrell Cloyd stopped for, but Cloyd’s response was a nonetheless matchless act of selfless heroism in our eyes.
Dorothy Marko’s truck had left the road and crashed into a tree in Choctaw County, Oklahoma, bursting into flames. When Darrell happened upon the scene, it’s reported that multiple bystanders had gathered to take pictures and videos, but none had yet tried to render assistance as Ms. Marko kneeled a dozen feet from the wreck. Darrell Cloyd ventured forth to help, and remained by her side until first responders arrived.
Emergency crews arrived to find Cloyd extremely upset, but refusing to leave Dorothy Marko’s side, “And screaming, ‘She’s just a baby. She’s just a baby.’ With all my heart, I want to thank him,” said Dorothy’s mother, Brenda Marko, shortly afterward. This because nobody knew just who Darrell Cloyd was. Dorothy had been whisked from the scene, transported by air to a hospital where she died from her injuries several hours later, and Cloyd had gotten back on the road and apparently disappeared.
Cloyd’s act of heroism went beyond providing what comfort he could to a dying young woman; his actions had provided solace to her grieving family in that they knew their daughter, sister, and mother had spent her last moments in the embrace of someone who cared. They began a search for the anonymous truck driver which resulted in their learning Mr. Cloyd’s identity with the help of a first responder who had taken Cloyd’s phone number. Brenda Cloyd says that while nothing can bring her daughter back, their family is comforted by the “angel” who didn’t just keep driving.
“I’ve said this to everybody: ‘It’s something that real truck drivers do,’” Darrell Cloyd later told The Trucker. “When we see an accident, real drivers will get out and help.”
Gas station surveillance video posted online by the Allen Park, Michigan Police Department shows a woman pumping gas. Everything seems normal enough until a man casually strolls up and hops into the driver’s seat of her car. The woman jumps on board as the man attempts to drive away in her car, and that’s when a trucker comes to the rescue.
A nearby tanker truck driver sees what’s happening and runs up to the vehicle as the would-be carjacker is trying to get away. Knowing the jig is up, the foiled felon flees on foot after being extracted from the vehicle and wrestled by the truck driving hero. Police were still searching for the so-called suspect at the time of the posting, but a man was later arrested and charged with the crime.
Apparently, this heroism was all in a day’s work for the tank rig driver, who refused to be identified.
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