Yeakley, of Batesville, Arkansas, was recognized on March 7 at the Gaylord Palms Resort during the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual conference. Yeakley won the title through a public vote.
Yeakley was driving to West Memphis, Arkansas, on March 17, 2022, and had just crossed the state border into Charleston, Missouri, at around 8:15 a.m. when he heard on his CB radio that there was an accident up ahead. He then noticed smoke and a man wearing a safety vest flagging down drivers to alert them to the accident.
The scene was a fire-filled, chain-reaction crash in dense fog that involved more than 45 vehicles. Yeakley immediately pulled over and jumped into action.
“I went up there; they already had a couple people out,” he said. “Some people had some broken arms, one had a collapsed lung, a few broken ribs from the impact.”
Yeakley, a 15-year member of the Army National Guard, is trained as a combat lifesaver and quickly assessed the severity of the scene. He surveyed the situation so he could tell the paramedics when they arrived. Fire was spreading in the crashed vehicles and tires were exploding all around them.
“There was one guy trapped in his truck,” he said. “So me, a sheriff, a state trooper, and a FedEx driver, we did what we could to get him out.”
Yeakley and the group were able to pry the dashboard off of another trapped crash victim and rescue him from his vehicle. The flames, he said, were surrounding them. Once the crash victim was rescued from his truck, Yeakley and a sheriff ran back to the scene to try to rescue the driver of a car trapped between a truck and a trailer, also surrounded by flames.
In total that day, Yeakley helped rescue six crash victims from several vehicles. Police reported at least six fatalities from the fiery crash. Yeakley, who has been driving a truck for four years, said he wouldn’t hesitate to jump back into the fire again to rescue drivers, crediting his military training for preparing him for the experience.
“Thank you for your selfless act of courage that morning,” EpicVue CEO Lance Platt said after presenting Zach with a personalized crystal truck.
EpicVue was the presenting sponsor of the event.
Yeakley will receive a complimentary EpicVue satellite TV package that includes a 24-inch flatscreen TV, a DVR and a one-year subscription to over 100 channels of DIRECTV programming, including premium channels such as HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and the NFL Sunday Ticket.
Since 1997, TCA’s Highway Angel program has recognized professional truck drivers who have selflessly helped others while on the job.
From each year’s recipients, one is selected as Highway Angel of the Year because he or she best embodies the spirit of the program.
Watch Yeakley recount the story in this video, produced by CFI.
Learn more about the Highway Angel program here: www.highwayangel.org.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.