Professional truck drivers Chris Delancey, John DeGood, Eric Eaton, and Frank Martin have been named Highway Angels by the Truckload Carriers Association for performing heroic actions while on the job.
Delancey is from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and drives for Covenant Transport. He is being recognized for quickly responding to pleas for help for an unresponsive child.
Delancey was aggravated. It was the day after Christmas, around 4 a.m., and he was finally on the road on Interstate 20 heading for Fayetteville, North Carolina, after dealing with serious delays in Atlanta.
“It was just after the holidays and the shipper was really backlogged,” he shared. His bladder was telling him he needed to make a stop. Begrudgingly, he pulled off at the next exit and into a Flying J. Delancey parked at a fuel island and went inside. On his way out, he could hear a man and woman screaming and yelling, “Something’s not right! She’s not breathing!”
Delancey dropped his coffee and ran over to the distraught couple. He saw a little girl, still in her booster seat in the back of the vehicle.
“I told them I’m a volunteer firefighter and asked if I could touch their daughter to check her out,” he said. They agreed, and he leaned in with his flashlight to see if she had choked on something, but the airway appeared clear. “I looked at her eyes, but they were unresponsive and showed no dilation.”
Delancey quickly pulled her out of the vehicle and laid her down on his rain jacket. “I told the father I was going to do chest compressions, and when I got to 30 he needed to cover the girl’s nose and mouth and breathe into her mouth as hard as he could.” After several attempts, Delancey still couldn’t get a pulse.
Delancey had lost his own 18-month-old daughter to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) a year earlier. “I saw my daughter’s face in that little girl,” he shared with TCA. “Something told me to keep on going.” He continued to work on the child. “Just as an ambulance pulled up, she took a breath,” recalled Delancey. “It’s music to your ears. Although she had a weak pulse, she was breathing. She opened her eyes and said, ‘Daddy.’” Delancey quickly scooped her up, ran to the ambulance, and handed her over.
Afterward, Delancey climbed back in his truck and broke down into tears.
“It hit me that what I couldn’t do for my daughter, I was able to do for this girl so her family could have a second chance with her,” he shared. If I hadn’t been running late that night and if I didn’t have a weak bladder, I would have kept on going. I believe there’s divine intervention all around us.”
DeGood, who lives in Plummerville, Arkansas, and drives for ABF Freight System, is being recognized for stopping to help the driver of a Ford passenger van after it collided with a trailer hauling fracking equipment.
It was a little after 2 a.m. on Dec. 3, 2019, and DeGood was traveling eastbound on Highway 315 near Clayton, Texas, when he came upon the accident. DeGood slowly maneuvered around the accident scene, made a U-turn, and returned in the westbound lane. As he was doing so, the driver of the fracking trailer slowed, but did not stop at the scene. A piece of the trailer’s DOT bumper was lying in the road.
DeGood said the van had veered off the road and into a stand of trees. He positioned his truck to shine his headlights on the scene and used his four-way flashers as warning signals. He grabbed a flashlight and went to check on the driver of the van, who told him he was having chest pain.
Since there was no smoke coming from the vehicle and he couldn’t smell any gas, DeGood told the driver to remain in his vehicle. He then called 911 and reported the accident.
DeGood is a part of the fire department at home. He checked the driver out to make sure he hadn’t sustained any cuts or broken bones.
“He told me he’d had open heart surgery a few years ago,” shared DeGood. “He said he had medication with him and asked me to help him find it, but he was so jumbled up in there, I couldn’t find anything. He said he didn’t see the trailer. It must have been coming off a dark road and pulled onto the highway.”
DeGood said emergency vehicles arrived just a few minutes later. He said he is hopeful everything turned out okay for the driver.
Eaton, who resides in Hudson, Ohio, is a professional truck driver with Garner Trucking. He is being honored for his driving skills, which prevented a collision under icy conditions from becoming a fatal accident.
Eaton was traveling near Twinsburg, Ohio, during one of the worst ice storms of 2019. He was in the right lane and driving well under the posted speed limit. As he looked in his side mirror, he caught a glimpse of three vehicles quickly approaching on his left, so he took his foot off the gas. As the first vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee, crept up next to the front of Eaton’s truck, it lost traction and began swerving.
“I started lightly tapping my brake,” said Eaton. “I didn’t want to hit my brakes too hard and create a bigger incident. I had a semi behind me. Next thing I know, the Jeep swerved all the way to the median. The median caught the Jeep and turned it sideways, projecting it right back in front of me.” Eaton was already slowing down and tapping the brakes.
“There was nothing I could do except brace for impact. My first thought was not to kill someone,” he shared. The Jeep struck Eaton’s truck, bounced off, and ended up in the median.
It was a quarter mile before Eaton was able to safely stop and pull over.
“I turned on the flashers and started running back toward the Jeep,” he said. “In my mind, I thought I had killed someone. It (the Jeep) hit so hard and went flying. The police were already on their way, and before I could get back to the Jeep, a police officer came and picked me up and took me back to my truck.”
The officers told Eaton it was too dangerous for him to be out on the road.
“But my major concern was whether there was a passenger in the Jeep, as the passenger side was crushed by the impact. Boy, I don’t know if they would’ve made it. I kept asking the officer if everyone was okay,” shared Eaton. The officer radioed back to the scene and learned the driver wasn’t critically injured and that there was no passenger in the vehicle.
Recently, the young woman who was driving the Jeep sent a note to Eaton and Garner Trucking, thanking him for his quick thinking and safe driving.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for saving my life that day,” she wrote. “I believe that the speed you were going and how you maneuvered the truck saved my life; other than Jesus Christ, I truly believe you saved my life, and I cannot write the words ‘Thank You’ enough times.”
Martin, from Menominee, Michigan, a professional truck driver with Veriha Trucking, was recognized for stopping to help a couple after their vehicle left the road during icy conditions and rolled down an embankment.
On Dec. 10, 2019, the road conditions were poor as Martin was heading through northern Wisconsin with a load bound for Duluth, Minnesota. Up ahead in the southbound lanes, he noticed a large four-door
pickup truck losing traction on the icy road and sliding from side to side. It was the only vehicle on that side of the road.
“I think they hit an icy patch coming around the bend and couldn’t recover,” said Martin. All he could do was watch as the driver lost control, hit the median, and skidded off the road.
“He went tail end over front end, and when he got to the bottom of the ravine, he then went side over side,” described Martin. “I pulled over and called 911 as I was running across the road.” When he reached the vehicle, it was lying on its side, driver’s side up. There was a middle-aged couple inside, conscious, and still in their seat belts.
Quickly, Martin climbed up on the driver’s side of the truck and opened the door. The driver was pressed up against the passenger, pinning her against the passenger door. “His seatbelt was jammed,” shared Martin. “I asked if they were hurt or bleeding, but they thought they were okay. I could tell they were scared.”
He ran back to his truck and grabbed a blanket. He then handed it down into the truck so the couple could stay as warm as possible. Martin was able to help the driver lift himself off the passenger a bit, which helped to calm her. Emergency vehicles arrived 25-30 minutes later.
“My grandfather was a trucker. I’d go out with him as a kid, and if he’d see a car broken down or an accident, he’d stop to make sure everyone was okay,” Martin said. “That left a big impression me. To me, it’s still a brotherhood. There are a lot of good truckers out there, and a lot of us want to make a difference. That’s a big part of why I stopped that day. Helping people out when they’re in trouble is more important than getting a load in on time. It’s the right thing to do. If it were my family, I’d want someone to stop.”
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 meet more recipients, visit highway angel.org.
Since the program’s inception in August 1997, more than 1,250 professional truck drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the exemplary kindness, courtesy, and courage they have displayed while on the job. EpicVue sponsors TCA’s Highway Angel 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.