Zach Yeakley has been named the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) 2022 Highway Angel of the Year. Yeakley, who lives in Batesville, Arkansas, and drives for Joplin, Missouri-based CFI, was recognized March 7 at the Gaylord Palms Resort during the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual convention. Yeakley was selected for the honor via a public voting process.
Yeakley was instrumental in ensuring the safety of numerous people who were involved in a fiery crash.
On March 17, 2022, at about 8:15 a.m., he had just crossed the state border into Charleston, Missouri, 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, which occurred in an area of dense fog.
The scene was a fire-filled, chain-reaction crash involving nearly 50 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. He quickly assessed the severity of the scene, surveying the situation so he could provide information for emergency personnel once they arrived.
Fire was spreading among the crashed vehicles, and tires were exploding all around them, he recalls.
“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 a dashboard off another trapped crash victim and rescue him from his vehicle, as the flames quickly surrounded them. Once the 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 different vehicles. Police reported at least six fatalities from the fiery crash. Yeakley, who has been driving a truck for four years, says 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,” said EpicVue CEO Lance Platt after presenting Zach with a personalized crystal truck during the awards ceremony. EpicVue was the
presenting sponsor of the Highway Angel of the Year Award.
Yeakley will receive a complimentary EpicVue satellite TV package that includes a 24-inch flat-screen 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.
The Truckload Authority News Staff, comprised of award winning journalists and graphic artists, produces content for Truckload Authority, working in cooperation with the Truckload Carriers Association staff. Truckload Authority aims to keep TCA members abreast on the latest trends in the trucking industry as well as articles that feature TCA member executives and drivers. The Truckload Authority staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.