Professional truck drivers Rick Connell, Bruno Filipe Da Costa Raposo, Chris Delancey, Josh Elmore, Gene Miller, Robbin Peters, and Donna Wright have been named Highway Angels by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) for acts of heroism while on the road.
Since the program’s inception in August 1997, nearly 1,300 professional truck drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the exemplary kindness, courtesy, and courage they have displayed while on the job. The program is made possible by presenting sponsor EpicVue and supporting sponsor DriverFacts.
Connell, who lives in Auburn, Washington, and drives for ABF Freight, was recognized for coming to the aid of an elderly man who had fallen in his yard.
A delivery truck driver, Connell responded to an unusual request as he was making a delivery in a residential neighborhood in Lynnwood, Washington. According to a letter sent to ABF Freight by a customer, when Connell arrived with a delivery, the next-door neighbor could be heard calling out for help through the bushes. She told Connell her husband had fallen in their garden and couldn’t get up.
“The consignee and I ran through the bushes,” shared Connell, “and I jumped over the fence.”
He found the man lying in a flowerbed. “He had been there for an hour on a hot, sunny day,” Connell added.
The man was conscious but couldn’t lift himself out of the raised flowerbed. “I asked him if he had any injuries and checked him over,” said Connell. “I think his pride was hurt, but otherwise he seemed to be okay.”
Connell helped him up and placed him into a chair in a shady area of the yard. At the wife’s request, he called 911 to get the fire department and paramedics to come and assess the man.
“He was cold and clammy and I was concerned about a potential heart attack. I knew he was embarrassed, so I told him if he needed anything I’d be on the other side of the fence,” shared Connell.
With that, Connell then jumped back over the fence to finish his delivery and stayed until he heard the paramedics arrive.
Connell has been driving for 23 years. He has come across fatal accidents and stranded motorists in the middle of the night, and once helped Oregon state police search for a vehicle that had gone off the road in a blizzard.
“I don’t consider what happened that day to be extraordinary,” he said. “It was such a minor thing. It was nothing exciting or dramatic.” Then he chuckles a bit, recalling that he was pleasantly surprised he was able to jump that fence two times at the age of 50.
Bruno Filipe Da Costa Raposo
Da Costa Raposo, who lives in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and drives for Bison Transport, was recognized for helping prevent a man from jumping off a bridge onto the roadway below.
Da Costa Raposo was on U.S. Highway 287 near Amarillo, Texas, in the late morning hours of August 24, 2020, when he saw something on a bridge up ahead. As he got closer, he realized the figure was a man who was about to jump off onto the roadway.
As Da Costa Raposo approached, he put on his four-way flashers, pulled over to the shoulder, and stopped about 50 feet from the bridge. He waited until there was a break in traffic and then positioned his truck and trailer to block the highway and stop traffic. He got out and went to talk with the man who was sitting on the edge of the bridge above him.
“He told me he had lost his job, his wife had left him, and his kids didn’t want to see him anymore,” recalled Da Costa Raposo. He tried to empathize with the man and told him about the difficult times he had had in his own life.
“I was trying to distract him,” he said. “Those few minutes felt like half an hour.”
Then the man stood up and looked as though he was going to jump. “It felt like things were going in slow motion,” said Da Costa Raposo. “I pleaded with him to talk a little bit more. I wanted him to listen to me, to let time pass until the police arrived. I kept looking (around) and wondering, where are the cops?”
A few minutes later, a police officer arrived, having been alerted about Da Costa Raposo’s truck stopped across the roadway. When the officer realized what was going on, he called for backup. Just a short time later, Da Costa Raposo saw police officers on the bridge approaching the man. They spoke with him for a few minutes and were able to convince him to move back from the edge of the bridge.
Da Costa Raposo said he awoke early that morning, unable to sleep. “I had an uneasy feeling,” he remembered. “I thought that something was going to happen that day.”
He recalled that as he approached the bridge a few hours later, his hands began to shake. Afterward, when he got back in his truck, he decided he needed to take a break. “It was emotional,” he said. “I couldn’t focus on the road.” He drove to a safe spot where he could get out and walk around to clear his head.
Da Costa Raposo’s family moved to Montreal, Quebec from São Miguel, Azores, Portugal, when he was young. He learned French at school and learned English by listening to the radio at home. Today, he and his wife, Stéphanie, have two young children and are expecting their third child.
Delancey, who lives in Vineland, New Jersey, and drives for Hirschbach Motor Lines, was recognized for helping stop and apprehend a reckless driver who was found to be carrying cocaine.
This marks the second Highway Angel recognition for Delancey in six months. In December 2019 he was at a Flying J truck stop in Columbia, South Carolina, when he responded to screams for help. The parents of a young child had found her unresponsive in the back seat of their vehicle. Delancey performed CPR and was able to resuscitate the child before first responders arrived.
Most recently, it was just before midnight on June 14 and Delancey was on Interstate 65 North in Tennessee, about to pass the Kentucky state line, when a pickup truck entered from an on-ramp and swung wildly across the three-lane highway.
“He almost hit the concrete barrier,” recalled Delancey. “Then he swerved back to the right shoulder, nearly colliding with another vehicle. Then he stopped dead in front of me.”
Delancey said he wondered what was happening. He activated his dashcam and watched as the male driver and female passenger got out and urinated in the middle of the highway.
“Then they got back in the vehicle and drove 300 yards and then got out and did it again,” he said.
Delancey called 911 and reported what he thought was a drunk driver. He described the vehicle as well as his own. Then he positioned his rig to prevent a passing motorist from rear ending the drunk driver’s vehicle. The dispatcher told Delancey to turn his four-ways on.
“Then the driver took off again. I lost sight of him as he went over a hill,” said Delancey. When Delancey crested the hill, he saw the vehicle was now stopped up ahead, partly on the shoulder and right lane. Delancey positioned his truck in front of the pickup to prevent them from driving off. By now they could hear sirens coming.
“The trooper pulled up and handcuffed the driver, who could barely walk, and put him in the back of the squad car, and had the female passenger lean against the squad car as he searched their vehicle,” said Delancey, adding that as this was happening, the passenger opened the squad car door.
“She was trying to stuff a two-ounce packet of cocaine into the driver’s mouth to swallow,” he recalled. He acted quickly and restrained her until the trooper could handcuff her. The trooper told Delancey there was a little girl who looked to be about 4 years old, asleep and unrestrained in the front seat.
Delancey learned that both the driver and passenger were using fictitious IDs and vehicle tags. They were charged on multiple counts, including driving while intoxicated, possession of cocaine, wanton disregard for public safety, and child endangerment. They had been wanted by immigration for three years. The child was placed in protective custody. Later, Delancey received a phone call from the Kentucky State Police Commissioner, who commended him for his actions that likely saved many lives that night.
Peters, who lives in Vancleave, Mississippi, and drives for Carroll Fulmer Logistics Corporation, was recognized for springing into action to extinguish flames and save a fellow truck driver from a burning rig.
It was April 8, 2019, and Peters had just parked his truck at a Petro in Hammond, Louisiana. He had no idea he was about to have a life-changing experience. Peters noticed a driver exit a truck nearby and head inside the truck stop.
Without thinking much about it, Peters assumed this was the only driver in the cab. A few minutes later, Peters noticed dark smoke billowing out from under the passenger side of the truck.
Leroy Kirk, a Petro employee, also saw the smoke and came running out to assess the situation. He had not seen anyone from the truck go into the store, so the employee was under the assumption that someone must be in the truck.
Without hesitation, Peters grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran over to the truck. When he got closer, he saw there were 2-foot flames now rolling under the front portion of the cab on the passenger’s side.
Peters shared how hot and intense the flames were, and that hot molten metal was dropping onto the fuel tank.
“I didn’t know at the time that there was still someone in the truck,” said Peters. “I was assuming it was just the one man that went inside. I began to start extinguishing the fire, and the Petro employee came running out and [started] knocking on the door. At this point I realized there was still someone inside.”
Peters shared that there was a puddle that looked like lava, and a soccer ball size hole in the fuel tank.
“I didn’t know how much longer that tank would make it,” he said. “We had a row of trucks that were about to become the equivalent of a meteorite hitting Earth. Because it was diesel, it didn’t explode. But if it would have been gas, I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you right now.”
Peters successfully extinguished the fire and the Petro employee retrieved the other man, who had been sleeping inside the truck. The driver in the truck spoke broken English, but the men could tell he was terrified. The fire was directly under his bunk. The outcome was a good one, all things considered.
Peters was in the Marine Corps for 11 years on active duty and was a police officer for almost another 11 years. During this time, he was a first responder to an active shooter at an apartment complex, and he saved a little girl in a wheelchair from a massive flood in a housing community. He has been driving trucks since he was 16, but now drives full time and is based outside of Biloxi, Mississippi.
“I’ve always been very busy, active, and drawn to high-stress occupations and situations, which is what has kept me so healthy,” shared Peters. “It keeps my awareness up; high-stress situations come naturally for me. Jimi Hendrix playing guitar is the way I handle stress. It’s like me breathing air! I’ve done it all my life, (and) I don’t even recognize it as stress. I just go out and do what I have to do.”
Elmore, who lives in Lincolnton, North Carolina, and drives for ABF Freight, was recognized for helping a driver after his vehicle collided with a dump truck. This is his second set of Highway Angel wings. Elmore also assisted a motorist on February 20, 2015, after her car caught fire.
It was a summer morning and Elmore was northbound on U.S. Highway 220 near Madison, North Carolina. “I was talking to another driver and checking my mirrors and my speed,” shared Elmore. “All of a sudden, I saw a big cloud of smoke or dust in front of me. I realized there was a dump truck and car that had made contact.”
The car was spinning around ahead of Elmore in the left lane, and the dump truck was in the right lane.
“The car hit the guardrail,” he recalled. “I started getting on my brakes to slow and stop and make sure cars behind me didn’t hit him. My first reaction was to stop, protect the scene, and then go check on the driver. I threw my hazards on and came to a stop, blocking traffic in the left lane.”
As Elmore jumped out, a power company truck stopped traffic in the right lane. He could see that the dump truck went around the bend and pulled over. Elmore ran to check on the driver in the car.
“There was debris all over the road,” he said. “The driver’s airbags had deployed and I didn’t know what to expect.” As Elmore approached the car, he was relieved to see the driver was maneuvering out of the vehicle.
“I checked him for injuries and asked him several times if he was okay,” said Elmore. “He was able to walk around, but was shaken up. He said he was on his way to Raleigh for a business meeting.”
Elmore remained on the scene for about an hour. He shared that he’s been in a wreck before and understands what it’s like.
“I try to help people when I can, show some compassion,” he shared. “Whatever happens, I hope I’m never in too much of a hurry to stop and help somebody. I try to live by that code every day. That’s the way I was raised.”
Miller, who lives in Blue Springs, Missouri, and drives for ABF Freight, was recognized for stopping to help a family after their vehicle struck a deer and overturned.
It was shortly after 6 a.m. on June 6 and Miller was northbound on Interstate 35 near Wellington, Kansas, on his way to Wichita. He was traveling behind a family in an SUV.
“As we were going along, I looked up the road and saw a deer on the southbound side standing by the concrete divider,” he recalled. Miller hoped the deer wouldn’t jump the wall, but it did.
Miller said the driver of the SUV swerved to the right but couldn’t avoid striking the deer. The vehicle hit the guardrail on the right shoulder, bounced off, hit the concrete wall divider under a bridge, and rolled over onto its roof. The vehicle then slid toward the right lane and Miller had to do a harsh brake to avoid T-boning it.
“I grabbed my phone and headset and ran back,” said Miller. A woman and young girl were climbing out of the vehicle. The woman told him that her husband was still inside. Miller directed them to stand by the wall and then went to check on the driver.
“He said he thought he had a broken leg. I crawled in and looked and discovered the man had a compound fracture by his ankle,” Miller shared with TCA.
Miller already had 911 on the line and relayed the location of the accident and condition of the occupants.
“By then, another truck driver stopped and we were trying to keep the driver calm,” he said. “His daughter, who was about 10 or 12, was really getting hysterical, afraid the car would catch fire and blow up. We assured her everything was okay, but the driver wanted us to get him out to ease her fears. So, we slid him out, taking it easy, and moved him over to the concrete wall.”
Other cars were going around the accident.
“A couple of them, you could see on their faces that they knew them,” said Miller. “They stopped and came over. I assume it was maybe a girls’ softball team or something and they were traveling together. They consoled the mother and daughter while the other driver and I stayed with the father. He told me this was his first accident. I said, ‘You sure made it a doozy,’ and he chuckled. I knew he didn’t want to hit the deer, but you don’t swerve to miss a deer. This is what happens.”
Wright, who lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, and drives for Challenger, was recognized for stopping at the scene of an accident and rushing to dispatch first responders.
Wright has been team driving with her husband, Geoffrey, for four years. On June 6 around 5:30 a.m., she was behind the wheel as Geoffrey slept in the sleeper berth. They were eastbound from Vancouver to Ontario on the Trans-Canada Highway.
“It was just starting to get light out as we approached Salmon Arm (British Columbia),” shared Wright. “I noticed there was a lot of mud strewn across the highway.”
Looking farther ahead, she was alarmed to see a semi–truck 20 feet off the side of the road in a marshy area with the tractor on its side. The driver had just missed a concrete barrier. Wright put her hazards on, pulled over, and then grabbed her headset as she jumped out of the cab.
“My heart was racing,” she recalled. “I knew in my heart of hearts that I needed to do what I could, but I don’t deal well with tragedy or blood.”
In fact, she can become faint in a moment. “The best thing I could do was to call 911 and get them dispatched,” she said.
While Wright knew she couldn’t get too close, she called out to the driver to see if he was okay and if there was anyone else in the cab. About that time, a driver in a pickup truck pulled over to the side of the road. As he ran down into the marsh, the truck driver emerged and was able to pull himself out of the truck.
“He was coherent and was able to answer questions and didn’t appear to have any serious injuries,” said Wright. Police and an
ambulance arrived minutes later.
Wright said Geoffrey slept through all of it. “I did wake him up afterward,” she said with a laugh. “He was actually quite taken aback that I would do that because of my fear of blood — a little scratch on my finger and I pass out,” she quipped. “He was quite pleased with me. I’m glad I could do that for a fellow driver. I would hope someone would do that for me if something were to happen.”
For their willingness to assist fellow drivers and motorists, TCA has presented each newly awarded Highway Angel with a certificate, patch, lapel pin, and truck decals. Their employers have also received a certificate acknowledging their driver as a Highway Angel.
To nominate a driver or to meet additional recipients, visit highwayangel.com or search the hashtag #HighwayAngel on social-media networks.
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.