Darrell Cloyd climbed in his truck in Tulsa, Oklahoma, sometime between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. headed for Shreveport, Louisiana, with a load of bags.
Unbeknownst to him, in the coming days he would become the subject of a week-long search by a grieving family whose daughter he had comforted as she lay dying, the victim of a horrific accident and fire after her pickup truck left U.S. Highway 70 just west of Hugo, Oklahoma, and smashed into a tree.
No one knows what caused 25-year-old Dorothy Marko's pickup to leave the roadway sometime around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, April 23, as Cloyd, an 18-year trucking veteran who drives for RDF Logistics, came upon the accident after Marko had somehow managed to get herself out of her burning vehicle.
He was on U.S. Highway 70, not the most direct route from Tulsa to Shreveport, but that route offered a way to avoid the most direct route, which would have required him to use a toll road.
“She had been out there for a while,” Cloyd told The Trucker from his home in Lorain, Ohio, located on the banks of Lake Erie just west of Cleveland. “The truck had burned to the point you couldn’t read the license plate. There was no paint color on the truck. It had burned all the way from the tail end to the nose. There was no cover on the seats, no steering wheel, it was all frame. She might have been in the truck when it tore the tree down and perhaps got out dazed.”
Cloyd said that in his opinion, the fire probably started when a ripped-open gas line or the gasoline tank itself came into contact with the manifold or exhaust system.
“It probably caught fire from the back because she had no clothes on the back of her body,” he said.
He believes Marko managed to pull herself from the truck because the driver side door was closed.
“You know how sometimes if you push a vehicle door open hard it will bounce back and close? I think that’s what might have happened,” Cloyd said. “They thought she might have been thrown out, but the door was closed.”
Cloyd said Marko had managed to pull herself some 15 to 20 feet away from the truck and was on her knees when Cloyd reached her.
“She fell back down, and that’s when I went to talking to try and keep her conscious,” he said. “She answered some of the questions.”
Not long after Cloyd started talking to her, he thought she had died, but she moaned a little as he was calling 9-1-I.
“I kept asking her questions and she couldn’t say what happened,” Cloyd said. “The sheriff came and started asking questions and she finally gave her name. I got frustrated when it took so long for emergency people to get there so I just prayed. I wanted to cover her up, but didn’t want to do so because it might peel off her skin. She started saying, ‘help me, help me,’ and that just tore a hole in my heart. I couldn’t leave her.”
Emergency crews later shared with Marko’s family that when they arrived at the scene, Cloyd was visibly upset but continued to stay by Marko’s side while screaming “she’s just a baby, she’s just a baby.”
“With all my heart, I want to thank him,” Dorothy’s mother Brenda Marko said.
Dorothy was airlifted to an area hospital where she passed away some four hours after the accident.
In the wake of the accident, Brenda Marko and family members turned to the media to help locate the Good Samaritan who’d stopped along the roadside to help.
One of those Brenda called was Lindsay Lawler, spokesperson for the Truckload Carriers Association’s Highway Angel program, which honors truckers who stop to help others in need.
The Trucker ran an article on its website about the search.
No one is sure about the details, but a first responder who came to the scene of the accident wrote down Cloyd’s phone number and passed it along to Brenda.
Cloyd was sitting in a restaurant when his phone rang.
He noticed it was an Oklahoma number; he answered and it was Brenda Marko.
Cloyd’s act of kindness has been a light during a very dark time for the Oklahoma family.
“At least he comforted her when we couldn’t,” said Brenda Marko.
“I’m hoping he made her feel comfortable for those last couple moments. I’m hoping that he eased her mind a little bit so she didn’t have to go alone,” Linda Marko, Dorothy’s sister, said.
As for his act of heroism, Cloyd has been humbled by those who called to say thank you.
“I’ve said this to everybody: ‘It’s something that real truck drivers do,’” Cloyd said. “When we see an accident, real drivers will get out and help.”
On February 3, Dorothy Marko left this Bible verse from Galatians 6:9 on her Facebook page: "Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
Darrell Cloyd, you did good.