Professional truck drivers Jackie Burnette, Daniel Cristian Ciorba, Bruno Filipe Da Costa Raposo, Aaron DeSilva, Ty Hinton, Robert Johnson, Ty Mauzerolle, Kris Stauffacher, Nick Still, Kirk Szecsodi, and brothers Calvin and Corey Williams have been named Highway Angels by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) for their acts of heroism while on the road.
For their willingness to assist fellow drivers and motorists, TCA has presented each 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, to meet additional recipients, or to hear audio recordings as the recipients tell their story, visit highwayangel.org.
Jackie Burnette, from Woodlawn, Virginia, who drives for Mountain River Trucking of Mount Airy, North Carolina, was honored for his support of a young driver following a hit and run incident that pushed the woman’s vehicle against Burnette’s tractor-trailer.
It was just before Thanksgiving and Burnette was traveling where Interstate 40 and Interstate 85 connect east of Greensboro, North Carolina. He suddenly felt the front end of his truck nearly lift off the ground at the right bumper.
“I’d been hit hard, and it was hard to hold it in the lane,” he shared. “I looked and saw that a car had just kind of skated off me and then went off to the side.”
It took Burnette nearly a mile to safely stop. “I called 911 and then my safety (advisor) to say I’d been in an accident and was going back to check on the driver,” recalled Burnette. He then hurried back to the scene.
“There was a young lady, and the first thing she did was say how sorry she was and that she didn’t mean to hit me,” he shared. “I asked if she was okay. She was really shaken up. She said she thought someone had hit her and pushed her into me. It all happened so fast. I went over and looked and sure enough, someone coming from an on ramp had struck her and pushed her into me and then drove off.”
Burnette said the young woman apologized for hitting his truck, but he reassured her that he didn’t care about the truck and as long as “she was OK, I was good.”
“She was so torn up and said she was afraid someone was going to be mean. I said, ‘Who’s gonna be mean? Let’s go whip ‘em now!’ I was just trying to get her to laugh. She was so upset,” he recalled.
A short while later, the young woman’s father arrived on the scene.
“He asked me how the truck looked. I said, ‘It could be better, but all in all it’s not real bad.’ She did hit it hard, though. We’ve got big metal fenders on the bumpers that probably weigh 200 pounds. The boss man don’t skimp,” Burnette said with a laugh. “The reason this accident wasn’t worse than it was, I have to give the boss man credit for his equipment. He’s got FlowBelows in between the drive tires (axles) on the tractor. When she hit the fender, she bounced off and came down the side and back into my drive wheels. If it weren’t for the FlowBelows, it would have sucked her in beneath the trailer and this would have been a lot worse story.”
The impact bent Burnette’s bumper into a steer tire on the right side, cutting into it. He needed to have the bumper pulled off and have the tire replaced before it was safe to continue driving.
DANIEL CRISTIAN CIORBA
Daniel Cristian Ciorba, who lives in Laval, Quebec, Canada, and drives for C.A.T. Inc. of Quebec, Canada, was honored for aiding a truck driver from the same company following a collision.
It was a sunny day in early October and Ciorba was southbound on Interstate 57 near Dix, Illinois. As he approached a bend in the road, he checked his mirrors and noticed another C.A.T. Inc. truck traveling about a quarter mile behind him. As Ciorba came around the bend, he saw there was a construction zone ahead, and one lane was closed. Traffic was quickly backing up and Ciorba had to cautiously slow down because a pickup truck was following closely behind him. A moment later, as he checked his right mirror again, he was shocked to see the other C.A.T. truck rear-end another tractor-trailer.
“I’m almost certain he must have been blinded by the sun,” Ciorba shared with TCA.
As soon as he could stop, Ciorba turned on his four-way flashers, grabbed his fire extinguisher, and ran back to the accident scene. As he reached the other C.A.T. truck, he saw that the cab had sustained heavy damage. Another motorist told Ciorba he could smell gas. Ciorba’s training as a truck mechanic kicked in and he worked quickly to cut the battery cables to prevent a spark and disconnected the fuel lines. He then checked on the driver.
“The window was broken, and the door was crushed,” he shared, adding that the driver’s face was covered in blood and he was having difficulty breathing. He was pinned by the steering wheel.
“I told him everything would be fine and to keep calm and breathe. I tried to open the door with a hand bar, but the door was completely compressed,” recalled Ciorba. He kept talking to him to keep him awake, but the driver lost consciousness three or four times.
First responders arrived within 20 minutes, but it took more than an hour to extricate the driver from his truck. In the meantime, Ciorba stayed on scene and called the C.A.T. dispatcher to relay what was happening so the company could inform the family of the driver’s injuries and what hospital he was airlifted to. He then waited to be sure the truck and load was secure until it could be towed.
The driver’s mother later contacted Ciorba to thank him for helping her son. He is now back at work, and the two men have met. Ciorba said his family raised him to help others in need. He is from Romania and moved to Quebec nine years ago. He was a truck mechanic before joining C.A.T. Inc. three years ago as a truck driver. He says his training helped him to know to disconnect the power and the fuel which likely prevented the situation from becoming far worse.
BRUNO FILIPE DA COSTA RAPOSO
Bruno Filipe Da Costa Raposo, who lives in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and drives for Bison Transport of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, was honored for stopping to aid a young woman after her vehicle veered off the road in front of him and into a ditch. This is his second set of Angel wings.
It’s not every day that Da Costa Raposo has a woman jump into his arms, but it happened late one afternoon in February. Raposo was driving down Interstate 80 near Scott, Iowa, looking for a place to stop for the night.
“It was snowing really bad, and icy,” Raposo shared with TCA. Due to the poor driving conditions, he had slowed to 50 mph when he saw a pickup truck trying to pass him in the left lane of the two-lane road, which was covered in snow. Raposo continued to slow down.
“When she was beside my drive axle, she started swerving so I slowed down even more,” shared Raposo. “She was able to clear me, but when she passed in front of my truck her rear bumper was just 5 or maybe 6 inches from my bumper, and then she veered off the road and went in the ditch.”
He remembered that the pickup rolled over on its passenger side. “I pulled over and got out, and she was already standing up inside the pickup cab with her feet on the passenger door,” said Raposo. “I told her to climb out the driver’s window and then I told her to jump, but she was scared. She had to jump down about 6 feet. I told her to jump and I would catch her. She was little, maybe 120 pounds. I thought, ‘Oh, this is going to hurt,’ but I caught her and then we both fell into the snow.”
Thankfully, the young woman didn’t have any injuries. “I told her she was very lucky,” he shared. Raposo told her she could wait inside his truck to stay warm. He called 911 and first responders arrived within five minutes. The young woman later called Raposo’s employer, Bison Transport, to relay her thanks for his help that night.
Aaron DeSilva, who lives in Midland, Texas, and drives for Melton Truck Lines of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was honored for stopping to help a young driver after a tractor-trailer clipped another vehicle, causing it to overturn and spin out of control.
It was late one evening in March as DeSilva and his wife, Tiffany, were going through the West Memphis, Arkansas, area on Interstate 40. “All of a sudden I saw a big flash, sparks, and fire as something flew across the road in front of us,” DeSilva shared with TCA. It was a car, on its roof, sliding across the road. “Another tractor-trailer looked like he was switching lanes, or maybe wasn’t paying attention,” he added. “He just came over the line and clipped the front of the car and spun it out and flipped him on his roof.”
The truck slowed and pulled over, but then left the scene. DeSilva pulled to the shoulder, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and jumped out as Tiffany called 911. He had to run across two lanes of traffic. “Cars and trucks slowed down long enough to look and then drove on,” he recalled. “We were the only ones that stopped.”
DeSilva rushed to the overturned car and pried the driver’s door open. He found a young male driver in his early to mid-20s.
“When I asked him if he was okay, his first words were, ‘What did I hit?’ I told him he didn’t hit anything, a truck hit him,” said DeSilva. “He was pretty shaken up.” DeSilva then helped him crawl out of the smoking vehicle. He turned off the car’s ignition and then moved the driver away from the vehicle and waited for first responders to arrive.
The driver called his mother to let her know he had been in an accident. He handed the phone to Tiffany and his mother asked if she and DeSilva would stay with her son until she and her husband could get there. They agreed. The couple later learned the young driver had sustained several broken ribs.
Thinking back on that evening, DeSilva said they were probably put there for a reason. “We had made a couple stops during the day which put us there at that particular time,” he said. “My wife says everything happens for a reason. We were meant to be there to help him.”
DeSilva has been driving over 22 years and has driven over the road for nearly eight years. “I’ve been all over the country,” he said. “Our kids are grown now so it’s just the two of us. We decided to be on the road fulltime together. I enjoy my job and seeing the country.”
DeSilva is originally from Bermuda and has lived in the U.S. for 12 years.
Ty Hinton, who lives in Olla, Louisiana, and also drives for Melton Truck Lines of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was honored for stopping to assist an elderly man who had fallen next to a busy street.
Hinton was driving through Peoria, Illinois, early one afternoon in November 2020. He was on his way to pick up a load when he noticed an elderly man sitting on the sidewalk next to the street.
“He was fiddling around with a walker,” recalled Hinton. “That threw up a flag in my head. I remember my grandma having a walker and falling and not being able to get back up. I thought about it for a second and decided I couldn’t not go check on him.”
Hinton quickly made a U-turn at a stop sign and then pulled up near the man, hopped out of his cab, and walked over to him. The man told him he’d been sitting there for about two hours with the sun beating down on him.
“He’d gone out to get groceries and when he came back, he’d been walking too long,” shared Hinton. “He tripped on a little patch of mud and fell and cut his arm up on the sidewalk.”
The man didn’t have a phone or Life Alert. Hinton helped him get up and sit on the seat of his walker. He then gave him a bottle of water and a cold compress for his wrist to cool him down a bit. Hinton shared that the man was borderline dehydrated by the time he arrived.
“I alerted the authorities and waited with him,” he said. “His son arrived before the paramedics got there and thanked me. He said he was so thankful that a complete stranger had stopped. But I did what I hope anyone else would do … it was a little upsetting to me that he’d been sitting there that long. In the 20 to 30 minutes I had been sitting there, so many cars went by and I thought, ‘Wow, how did nobody see this guy?’ It took me stopping a 70-foot vehicle to stop and help him.”
Hinton later learned the man’s son had called Melton to express his gratitude.
“I’m not normally the kind of person to seek recognition for what I do. I was just raised to be humble and helpful,” said Hinton, adding that the elderly man also called him. “We had a good 30- to 40-minute conversation. It’s the first time I’ve ever been in a situation like that. I let instinct kick in and I helped. A load can wait. That man couldn’t. I’m glad I was paying attention. I think that’s why others didn’t stop. They were too busy doing their own thing and passed him by. My grandparents taught me to be compassionate toward everyone. When you see someone in trouble, you help.”
Robert Johnson, who lives in Livingston, Texas, and drives for Freymiller Inc. of Oklahoma City, was honored for rushing to pull two men from a burning truck.
It was an ordinary day in March as Johnson was driving along Interstate 85 on his way to Charlotte, North Carolina. It was mid-afternoon when he happened to take note of a straight truck as it passed him. Shortly afterward, Johnson saw a column of smoke up ahead of him. As he rounded the corner before the next exit, he saw that the truck that had passed him was now on fire.
“There were two people still in the truck,” he shared with TCA.
Johnson is a retired firefighter and knew there wasn’t much time. He quickly acted, positioning his truck to block the right two lanes. He jumped out, ran to the truck, and managed to get the driver and passenger out and a safe distance away from the truck.
“The fire was too far gone for a fire extinguisher,” he remembered. “The first thing I had to do was get them out and to a safe place.”
Johnson then called 911 and explained the situation. By this time, the truck was engulfed in flames.
“The first fire engine arrived within five minutes,” he said. “As they were taking their hoses out the tank on the truck blew.”
When the ambulance arrived a few minutes later, he learned that the driver had life-threatening injuries and the passenger had also suffered burns. Johnson knows that if it weren’t for his training as a firefighter and a professional truck driver, those two men would very likely have lost their lives that day. He thought about the families they may have at home waiting for them.
Johnson was a firefighter for four years. One day he went into a structural fire. “When I came out of the house it collapsed behind me,” he said. “That’s when I retired.” He began driving in August 2019. “My mom drove truck for 30 years,” added Johnson. “I decided to follow in her footsteps.”
Ty Mauzerolle, who lives in Springfield, Missouri, and drives for Prime Inc., also located in Springfield, Missouri, was honored for stopping at the scene of a fatal two-car accident and working to rescue a 9-year-old boy.
Mauzerolle and his student driver, Leonel Sanchez, were on Interstate 40 near Holbrook, Arizona, on their way to Henderson, Nevada, in early June 2020.
“It was around 9 p.m.,” shared Mauzerolle. “It was really dark; there’s nothing out there, just desert.”
Then he saw something glowing orange up ahead on the right. Mauzerolle moved to the left lane.
“It was a car on fire,” he recalled. “As we got closer, there was another car in the left lane sitting sideways.” Mauzerolle had to initiate a hard stop at 65 mph. He then grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran to the burning vehicle as Sanchez called 911. Mauzerolle could hear a child screaming.
“It was a boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old,” he said. Other cars and trucks stopped and drivers rushed over with their extinguishers. “We were able to get most of the flames out,” he said.
The boy’s father was deceased, as was the elderly driver in the other vehicle. “I knew we had to get this kid out of the car,” said Mauzerolle, “but it was really mangled, and the doors weren’t opening.” Sanchez helped him get tools out of the truck to pry the doors open and then grabbed a blanket.
“I was afraid of the flames flaring back up,” he added. “We didn’t know his (the boy’s) injuries, but his leg was stuck.” He worked with two other drivers on the scene to free him. He then carried the boy away from the vehicle.
“I was on the ground with this kid in my arms,” continued Mauzerolle. “A trooper arrived and said he would be happy to take over, but I didn’t want to let him go until he was put in an ambulance.” Both of the boy’s arms were broken and likely both legs, and at least one rib. He hadn’t been wearing a seat belt.
“They tried to give him pain medication,” recalled Mauzerolle, “but he was terrified of getting a shot. He was screaming. I asked him if he liked video games. I told him I had a Nintendo Switch in the truck and that if he took the shot then he could have the game,” he said. “This was the worst day in that kid’s life. I wanted to do anything to take his mind off what just happened.”
The boy was taken by Life Flight to a children’s hospital in Phoenix. Mauzerolle said he and Sanchez made a couple of unscheduled stops that day.
“It ended up putting us in the right place at the right time,” he shared. “We would have crossed Arizona a lot earlier and missed the accident. That’s just how the chain of events worked.” He later learned that the boy and his father were just 7 miles from home that night. The other driver, an elderly man, was driving in the wrong direction.
“This wasn’t reckless driving,” he said. “This was an accident. Anything can happen. It makes you appreciate what you have. The next day I called all my family.”
TCA and its Highway Angel program has also recognized William and Becky Gregory, owner-operators who drive for Titan Transfer, Inc. They were also on I-40 that night and stopped at the scene to help.
Mauzerolle said Sanchez was in his final stage of Prime’s student driver program. “He is still with me. He was such a good student I hired him to work with me,” he said. “He was very helpful at the accident scene. I am very grateful he was with me that night.”
Kris Stauffacher, who lives in Collinsville, Oklahoma, and drives for Melton Truck Lines of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was honored for stopping to help a fellow driver whose trailer was engulfed in flames on the side of the road.
Stauffacher was heading north on Interstate 45 near Alma, Texas, around 4 a.m. with a trainee in September 2020 when he saw a truck on fire ahead. The men immediately pulled over and Stauffacher grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran to the scene.
“The trailer was pretty much fully engulfed,” he recalled.
The driver was able to jump out of the cab and had already emptied his fire extinguisher. “It looked like the fire was coming from the drive tires.” said Stauffacher. He recalled working quickly to knock down the flames to keep them from spreading to the tractor.
“They were starting to creep up on the sleeper,” he added. “The flames went into the trailer and just ate it up. I asked the driver what he was hauling, and he said beer, so it wasn’t anything hazardous.”
The fire department arrived just a few minutes later and finished putting out the rest of the fire. The driver didn’t appear injured.
“I was shocked by how many people just drove by and didn’t do anything,” said Stauffacher. “This is a well-traveled road. We could have maybe saved the trailer. The ironic part is that I’ve been a trainer for five-and-a-half years. I tell them (student drivers) if there’s someone who needs help we need to stop. We have fire extinguishers and water and blankets on the truck. We can call for help and do more than just drive on. People would rather take videos on their cell phone than help. As a professional driver, nine times out of 10 if there’s an accident, normally truck drivers are the first ones on the scene because there’s so many of us. That’s someone’s family member. It’s not mandated, but I can stop and render some help.”
Stauffacher has been driving for nearly 11 years.
“I’ve come across several things in my career,” he said. “I’ve reported brush fires, spinouts in the winter — I try to stop and help. We’re a brotherhood, we’re out here doing the same thing. I would want someone to help me.”
Nick Still, a driver with Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc. of Dubuque, Illinois, was honored for aiding a couple after their vehicle spun out and overturned on an icy road.
Still was driving along Highway 34 near Galesburg, Illinois, late one morning in February. It was sleeting and snowing, and the roads were slick so he was leaving some extra distance between himself and the pickup truck ahead of him.
“Just as we were approaching an overpass, I watched him spin out,” he shared. “They spun around and rolled. A big cloud of powdery snow went up and when it settled, they were laying on the passenger side in the ditch. The driver wasn’t driving erratically, but simply hit a patch of black ice under a thin layer of snow. I pulled to the side, threw on my hazards, and called 911.”
He then ran over to the overturned vehicle as the driver was climbing out of the driver’s door.
“I gave him a hand and then helped lift his wife out,” Still shared, adding that the pair appeared to be in their 50s and were fortunate to walk away without any major injuries.
“She may have injured her arm because the vehicle landed on the passenger side,” he recalled. “It all happened so fast that I didn’t even catch their names. I was just trying to make sure they were OK.”
Still waited until police and EMTs arrived. He learned the couple later called his employer to thank him for helping them that day. He has been driving with Hirschbach for three years. He is also a Certified Trucker Against Trafficking.
Kirk Szecsodi, who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and drives for Len Dubios Trucking of Winnipeg, was honored for his alertness that led to successfully locating a missing elderly man.
Fate was shining on Szecsodi the day he saw a Silver Alert on a digital highway sign on U.S. Highway 287 near Waco, Texas. Silver Alerts help locate vulnerable adults who go missing.
“It said it was an elderly man driving a black Dodge Charger,” recalled Szecsodi. He jotted down the vehicle make and model and the license plate number.
“I’d always thought it’d be cool to help find someone,” he shared.
A few hours later, he stopped at the Love’s Truck Stop in Quanah, Texas, for his half-hour break. “I went inside for a while and as I was walking out the front door, this elderly man held the door open for me,” Sxecsodi recalled.
Szecsodi thanked him and then saw the man walk toward a black Dodge Charger. He says the license plate number rang a bell. He ran back inside and grabbed a piece of paper. “I only got part of the license plate number,” he said. “But I thought that might be the guy.”
After getting back in his truck, Szecsodi saw that the license plate number matched what he had taken down earlier. “That was the guy,” he exclaimed when recounting the day. “I called the police and told them I had seen him in a black Charger heading toward Amarillo.”
The police called him back about 20 minutes later to thank him and said they found the man and he was safe. Szecsodi is still in disbelief about his luck.
“It’s incredible that the very person on the Silver Alert was standing right there holding the door for me! That was the most bizarre part,” he said adding he’s relieved that things worked out well.
CALVIN AND COREY WILLIAMS
Calvin and Corey Williams, twin brothers who live in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and drive for Armellini Express Lines of Palm City, Florida, were honored for rushing to the aid of a couple whose vehicle veered off the road and into a steep ravine, crashing into a tree.
Around 4 a.m. on February 21, Calvin was on Interstate 44 near Bristow, Oklahoma, when a vehicle passed him at a high rate of speed; then veered off the road and disappeared down a steep embankment. Corey was in the sleeper. They also had a trainee, Allen Ford, with them. Calvin safely applied the brakes and woke up Corey as he quickly pulled over and directed Allen to put the reflectors out behind the truck.
They called 911, rushed to the edge of the road, and peered down into a wooded ravine.
“It was pitch black out there,” recalled Calvin, but they could see a small fire about 300 to 400 feet from the road. The team could hear people screaming for help. Having only the light from their cellphones to light the way, they ran into a barbed-wire fence and climbed over it. They then scrambled down a slick, muddy embankment. By the time they reached the vehicle the flames had died out.
“They hit a tree so hard it knocked the headlights out and pushed the motor and transmission into the cab,” said Calvin. The windows were broken out, and the brothers found a male passenger, conscious, laying on the ground with a serious leg injury.
The female driver was about 30 feet from the vehicle. “She was bleeding and shivering and couldn’t move her legs,” shared Calvin, adding that he suspected she had a broken back. “She kept saying she had fallen asleep at the wheel. She looked like she was going into shock.”
“It was 23 degrees that night,” added Corey. “They were cold and wet and freezing. It was a bad situation.” One of the brothers climbed back up to the truck to grab blankets. Because of the area’s remote location, it was an hour before the police arrived, and another hour before the EMTs reached them. “But they had no way to get down the hill and successfully bring two people back up, especially with their injuries,” said Corey.
One of the brothers opened a tracking app on his phone and pulled up a detailed image of the area. The crash scene was near an old dirt road, but difficult to get to. It took the EMTs another 30 minutes before they finally reached the injured couple.
“That was a crazy night,” said Corey. “We stayed with them for four hours until the sun came up, with no jackets on in 23 degrees. When we heard those sirens, it was the best sound I’d heard all night.”
“I’m glad we stopped,” shared Calvin. “There aren’t any houses back there. No one would have seen them from the highway. All I was thinking about was saving a human life. We didn’t know what type of situation was down there. We didn’t care.”
The brothers have been driving together for 13 years. Calvin said he was fascinated by semitrucks as a kid. The two decided they wanted to become truck drivers.
“We want to be the best drivers we can be,” Calvin said. “We do more than just drive truck. We save lives, too.”
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.