Professional truck drivers Rich DiFronzo, Tony Doughty, William Hancock, Michael Lee, Tony Medina, Marty Smith, and Eric Weed have been named Highway Angels by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) for their acts of heroism while on the road. In recognition of these drivers’ willingness to help fellow drivers and motorists, TCA has presented each Highway Angel with a certificate, a lapel pin, patches, and truck decals. Their employers have also received a certificate highlighting their driver as a recipient. TCA extends special thanks to the program’s presenting sponsor, EpicVue, and supporting sponsor, DriverFacts. To nominate a driver or read more about these and other Highway Angel award recipients, visit highwayangel.org.
Barnhart Transportation – North East, Pennsylvania
When truck driver Rich DiFronzo of Dallas, Pennsylvania, stopped at a New Jersey truck stop last year, he spotted a pitiful scene: A female puppy had been tied to a tree and abandoned.
DiFronzo, who drives for North East, Pennsylvania-based Barnhart Transportation, stopped to investigate.
“I fed her cheeseburgers because I asked everybody around whose dog it was and no one said anything,” he said. “They said a guy was trying to sell the dog over the weekend. I got there on Thursday — so to me, that’s five, six days that the dog had been there, tied to the tree.”
DiFronzo freed the puppy from the tree and took her home with him. Although she was skittish when he first approached her, he said, she seemed relieved to be rescued.
“She stayed with me the whole week in the truck,” he said. “She couldn’t get enough cheeseburgers. She was starving.”
As soon as he got home to Pennsylvania, DiFronzo took the puppy to a veterinarian. He discovered she was malnourished and needed several rounds of antibiotics. He spent more than $500 to nurse the puppy, now named Roxy Lynn, back to health.
On October 18, 2022, Roxy Lynn moved to her forever home, with a friend of DiFronzo’s.
“I’d do it again tomorrow,” he said of the time and money he spent. “I love animals and you just don’t do that to animals.”
Bay & Bay Transportation – Eagan, Minnesota
At about 10 a.m. October 27, 2022, Tony Doughty was driving east on Interstate 40 near Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he witnessed an accident on the opposite side of the highway. A red Chevrolet car, which was driving about 70 mph, struck a white Jeep and then crashed into a concrete barrier. The Jeep flipped following the impact.
Doughty, who lives in Greenville, Texas, and drives for Bay & Bay Transportation out of Eagan, Michigan, quickly and safely pulled over and prepared to help.
“I jumped out of the truck and grabbed my EMT bag,” Doughty said. “I’ve been a volunteer firefighter for a long time.”
Just as Doughty was about to cross the highway on foot to reach the crash site, a passing police officer also stopped. Upon discovering Doughty’s background as a first responder, the officer said, “You’re coming with me, buddy!” and the two men ran to the scene.
The driver of the Chevrolet, a man in his 30s, had a broken leg, so Doughty — who has been a volunteer firefighter for 12 years — put on a splint to keep the limb in position until emergency personnel arrived. The driver told Doughty he was either withdrawing or overdosing on fentanyl and methadone.
“I got him kind of stable,” Doughty said, adding that he then went to check on the driver of the Jeep, an 18-year-old girl who did not sustain serious injury but was visibly shaken.
“She was still flipped over on the road,” he said. “I ran over to the Jeep and got the young lady out.”
Doughty partnered with the police to relay vitals of the crash victims to local dispatch and stayed on the scene until the ambulance departed. As a 15-year driver with over 2 million safe driving miles under his belt, Doughty says he is always ready to offer aid during accidents.
“I wear two hats,” Doughty explained, “I’m wired to stop and help in situations like this.”
Ashley Distribution – Ecru, Mississippi
William Hancock of Thaxton, Mississippi, who drives for Ecru, Mississippi-based Ashley Distribution, has been honored for helping at the scene of an early-morning crash.
At about 3:15 a.m. June 23, 2022, Hancock was driving on Interstate 22 near Fulton, Mississippi, when he saw another tractor-trailer veer off the road ahead of him and overturn. Immediately afterward, a Dodge Challenger approached from behind, the driver unaware of the accident, and crashed into the toppled rig. Hancock immediately pulled over to help.
“I jumped out of my truck,” Hancock said, noting that there seemed to be smoke coming from the crashed Dodge. “It looked like the inside of the car was on fire. The biggest concern was getting them out of the car.”
There were four passengers in the car, and Hancock proceeded to extract them from the vehicle. He was able to help three passengers out of the car, but says he had trouble with the fourth.
“I went around to open the passenger-side door — and it wouldn’t open at all,” he said.
Hancock said the woman sitting in the passenger seat was disoriented after being struck by the vehicle’s inflated airbag. He quickly got into the vehicle’s back seat, pulled the woman over the seat, and helped her exit out the back door.
Miraculously, there were no serious injuries in the accident. A trucker for 24 years, Hancock had recently completed cancer treatments. However, he said, he didn’t hesitate to stop and help.
“If it was my family in that car, I’d hope somebody would stop to help them,” he said.
Melton Truck Lines – Tulsa, Oklahoma
On September 17, 2022, trucker Michael Lee of Madison, Alabama, was traveling along Interstate 95 North in Florida. Just before exit 337, he came upon a multi-vehicle accident.
“The traffic started to part ways like the holy waters,” described Lee, who drives for Melton Truck Lines out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. “When I got up there, I saw more and more of it.”
Lee described the accident as a “chain reaction” involving five cars, all swerving to avoid one another but crashing and stopping in the middle of the highway.
“When I got up there, there’s a whole bunch of people around the white Buick (involved in the accident),” Lee said. “The door was caved in. I asked if the lady was trapped in there, and they said, ‘Yes, she is.’”
Lee jumped into action and tried to rescue the trapped, injured woman using the binder bar from his truck, but was unable to free her. As a former member of the U.S. Air Force and a volunteer firefighter, Lee had received training that helped him assess the situation. He quickly realized that moving her from the vehicle would only risk further injury.
“The best that I could do was just to try to keep her comfortable and keep her still,” he said. “I did what I could to keep her awake and calm until the paramedics and rescue arrived.”
Police asked Lee, who has been a trucker for 10 years, to use his CB to help get other truck drivers, who were backed up at the scene, to shift their rigs to make room for the emergency vehicles.
Three people were taken to the hospital for treatment following the accident. According to paramedics, the trapped woman Lee comforted faced a long hospital stay, but she was expected to recover.
“I don’t feel like a hero, mainly because that would entail being more involved in the process than what I was,” Lee said humbly.
National Carriers – Liberal, Kansas
Jose “Tony” Medina of Perryton, Texas, who drives for National Carriers out of Liberal, Kansas, is honored for helping rescue two children from a burning truck.
It happened July 6, 2022, at about 3 p.m. Medina had stopped at National Beef Packers in Liberal, Kansas. He was parked behind another truck, which had its back doors open for inspection. While Medina was checking in the office for his delivery, he noticed flames coming from the other truck. The driver was in the truck, but Medina says he believes the other driver didn’t realize his truck was on fire.
“There were three things that really got me to spring into action,” Medina said. “One of them was I didn’t see anybody coming out of the truck, so I thought that maybe there was someone who needed help getting out.”
Secondly, there was a strong wind that day, which Medina said he knew would spread the fire quickly. He knew he needed to act fast. The third — and possibly most important — factor was that Medina spotted two small children inside the truck.
“I told the trucker, and I told the little boy that the truck was on fire, and they needed to get out,” he said. As the other driver worked to unbuckle a baby from a car seat, Medina pulled the other child out of the truck.
At this point, Medina said, the flames were intense, so he hurried to move his truck to keep it from also catching fire. In the end, the other truck was completely destroyed by the fire.
Oddly enough, Medina wasn’t even supposed to be at that location that day, but he had moved his schedule around due to a family vacation.
“Luck of the draw, destiny, whatever you want to call it,” he said. “God working — whatever — I happened to be there at the right time.”
Melton Truck Lines – Tulsa, Oklahoma
On a dreary day in early September 2022, truck driver Marty Smith was driving along Interstate 70 in Colorado. Around 2 p.m., he encountered heavy rain. As he adjusted his speed to match conditions, a Jeep SUV passed him, hydroplaned and rocketed into the center median, where it flipped multiple times.
“It was raining like crazy,” said Smith, who lives in Orlando, Florida, and drives for Melton Truck Lines out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Smith immediately pulled over to help the other driver.
“I put on my hazards, and I ran across the road. That was the dangerous part, because nobody was slowing down,” he recalled
Upon reaching the crashed Jeep, Smith found the vehicle on its side, with the driver trapped in the front seat. While Smith worked to pry the front windshield open, the other driver kicked the glass from the inside. Between the efforts of the two, the windshield finally popped free.
Smith quickly helped the driver out of the crashed vehicle. Smith describe the other driver as “dazed and confused,” but says he didn’t appear to sustain any significant injuries. Just as Smith extricated the driver, police arrived on the scene.
Melton Truck Lines – Tulsa, Oklahoma
Truck driver Eric Weed of Oklahoma City is recognized for coming to the aid of his driver-trainer, Scott, who was having a severe allergic reaction to coconut while the two were running a training route.
In October 2022, Weed, who drives for Melton Truck Lines of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was training with Scott. While at a restaurant in Orlando Scott somehow ingested coconut, to which he is severely allergic.
“He just starts sweating bad and starts turning purple and blue,” Weed said. “He started shaking and said, ‘I think I was exposed to coconut.’”
Weed’s trainer normally carries an EpiPen to counteract allergic reactions, but this time, he had left it in his backpack in his hotel room. Weed rushed to order a rideshare service to get them back to the hotel as Scott became progressively more ill.
“He was still sweating like crazy. I was ready to call 911,” Weed said, adding that Scott insisted he would be OK once they got the EpiPen.
Upon returning to the hotel, Weed made a mad dash for Scott’s hotel room and quickly retrieved the EpiPen. After injecting a dose of allergy-counteracting epinephrine, Scott seemed to get better.
“I got him some water, and hung out and watched him for two hours until he was good,” Weed said. “I’m glad I was there and glad it all worked out.”
Scott made a quick recovery, and the two men were able to complete training. Scott believes Weed’s quick response helped save him from being thrust into a more severe — or even life-threatening — situation.
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.