Professional truck drivers Robert Coats, Augustine “Gus” Corona, Craig Gay, Harrison Harville, Phil Jackson, Mike Noack, and Robert Simpson 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 drivers’ acknowledging 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 Angels award recipients, visit highwayangel.org.
Hogan Transport, St. Louis, Missouri
On March 24, Robert Coats was traveling south on Interstate 65 in Kentucky when he approached an accident involving two CMVs and a car. All three vehicles were on fire.
“I saw a big plume of smoke, and then flames,” said Coats, a resident of Stow, Ohio. “Something just said, ‘pull over.’”
When he reached the scene, Coats found a woman trapped in the car. The driver’s-side door was engulfed in 4-foot-high flames, but Coats was able to climb into the back seat on the driver’s side.
“As she was stuck in there, I reached in,” he said, “I said, ‘Ma’am! Ma’am! We’ve gotta get out! We’ve gotta get out!’”
Without a moment to spare, Coats coaxed the woman to climb over the seat of the burning car into the back seat; he then proceeded to pull her out safety.
“Shortly thereafter, the car exploded,” he recalled.
The woman suffered multiple injuries and was airlifted for medical treatment. Three weeks later, the woman contacted Coats to thank him. Since then, he has met with the woman and her family, who are very grateful for his help during the accident.
“Mr. Coats used his fire extinguisher to stave off the fire that had ignited the victim’s car,” said Kentucky State Police Officer Kelly Anderson. “He entered into a funnel of two CMVs that were on fire, as well as the surrounding area. Witnesses stated he was holding back the fire until he was able to remove her and pull her to safety moments before the car exploded.”
Coats said it was a miracle neither he nor the crash victim suffered any burns, despite being in a car engulfed in flames.
Many have asked Coats: Why jump into a burning car?
“There wasn’t a second thought about it,” he said. “I just did it. I saw, and I went — that was it. Everything worked out in God’s favor; that’s how he wanted it.”
AUGUSTINE “GUS” CORONA
Melton Truck Lines, Tulsa, Oklahoma
On June 11, Gus Corona of Corpus Christi, Texas, was driving along Highway 26 in South Carolina when a commercial truck ahead of him began bobbing back and forth. The stretch of road was narrow and had cement barriers. Corona watched as the truck suddenly shifted and flipped onto its passenger side.
“The container (on the back of the truck) must have hit the median,” Corona explained. He quickly pulled over and ran to the overturned truck, where he found the driver, a woman, inside.
“I see a lady in there and I told her, ‘We have to get you out of here,’” he shared. Within moments, he had helped pull her from the truck and to safety. To his amazement, the woman suffered only minor injuries like scrapes, cuts, and bruises.
Once the driver was safe, Corona realized three fires had ignited because of sparks flying from the truck crash. He quickly grabbed his fire extinguisher and combatted the fires before they grew out of control.
A member of the U.S. Air Force for 24 years, Gus credits his quick thinking and efforts to his military and medical training.
“My instincts kicked over,” he said, explaining that he received extensive preparation in the Air Force for accidents and unexpected situations. After the accident scene was cleared by police and emergency personnel, Corona drove the other driver to meet her family.
Since the accident, the drivers have stayed in touch. To show her gratitude, the truck driver whose rig crashed plans to name her new dog “Gus” in honor of Corona.
Quickway Transportation, Indianapolis
Driver Craig Gay was on his way home from work about 1 a.m. July 6 when he came upon a crashed vehicle near the 96-mile marker of Interstate 74 near Indianapolis. The vehicle, a Jeep, was engulfed in flames, so Gay pulled over to help.
Using a flashlight to check the scene, he realized the driver, a woman, was still inside the vehicle. He quickly called 911.
“I went over to the driver’s side, and I was like, ‘Hey, you gotta get out! Your car is on fire!’” Gay recalled. The woman was not coherent, and Gay was unable to pull her from the car because she couldn’t get out of her seatbelt.
Gay began flagging down vehicles to help. Finally, a truck with two men stopped and gave Gay a pair of scissors to cut the seatbelt. Another trucker also stopped, and used his fire extinguisher to subdue the flames so Gay could climb into the back seat of the car and cut the woman’s seatbelt.
“We tried to get her to come out to us, but she was just out of it,” he said. Gay pulled the woman from the driver’s seat into the back seat, and the other bystanders pulled them both from the burning vehicle.
Gay later discovered the woman was suffering a diabetic emergency, which caused the accident.
“If it wasn’t for these two men we could be investigating a fatal crash this morning. Their heroic actions and selfless response saved a life,” said Indiana State Police Sergeant Jon Caddell.
Gay, who is a former Marine, was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.
“When you’re presented with a situation, the best thing is to take action and do something,” he said. “Not just standing back and not doing anything — what’s a few burns to save somebody’s life?”
Covenant Logistics, Chattanooga, Tennessee
At about noon on June 30, Harrison Harville was driving on Interstate 81 in Marion, Virginia, when he noticed a U-Haul truck on the side of the road, engulfed in flames. The U-Haul was hooked to a trailer, carrying a car.
“Everybody was just driving by. I applied my brakes and pulled off the side of the road,” recalled Harville. He quickly jumped out of his truck, with a fire extinguisher in hand.
“The trailer was on fire. The axle locked up on the trailer — it blew out the right-side tire and the left-side tire,” he said. Harville worked quickly to extinguish the fire, and was able to save the U-Haul and the vehicle towing the trailer.
“I couldn’t believe all the people driving by,” he said in disbelief. “I did the right thing. If you live right, you do right.”
Harville, a resident of Morristown, Tennessee, has been driving a truck for 27 years. He says the driver of the U-Haul tried to pay him $100 for his help, but he turned down the offer.
“I’ll be rewarded in heaven,” Harville said with a smile.
Bay & Bay Transportation, Eagan, Minnesota
On July 2, Phil Jackson of Tyler, Texas, was driving on Highway 287 South in Moore County, Texas, when he noticed an RV on fire on the side of the road. The RV’s driver and passengers were trying to extinguish the fire. The RV was also pulling a trailer with a car.
“I realized it was a motor home on fire,” Jackson shared. “So, I pulled off on the shoulder and grabbed my fire extinguisher.”
Jackson ran across the divided highway with his fire extinguisher in hand to put the fire out, but realized the fire was too large for just his extinguisher.
“It looked like they had ruptured a fuel line,” he recalled. “There was a pretty good little fire going down in there.”
To save the trailer and car, Jackson worked quickly to unhook the trailer from the RV. He then remained at the scene until emergency personnel arrived.
“I felt really bad for the people,” he said, adding that the RV “was pretty much gone.” Fortunately, the trailer and car were saved.
Jackson has been driving trucks since 1975. In addition, he has been a volunteer firefighter and first responder over the years, which helped him know how to act quickly in an emergency situation.
Stevens Transport, Dallas, Texas
At about 1 a.m. on July 27, Mike Noack, a resident of Greenville, Texas, was driving on Interstate 10 in Port Allen, Louisiana, when the tanker truck he was following crashed into a ditch. Noack quickly pulled over and called 911, and then went to the truck to see if he could help.
“His windshield was blown off, for the most part,” Noack said. “He was pretty much pinned behind the dashboard — nice, big old gaping gash on his head, and arm completely snapped right at the elbow.”
Because of the position of the truck cab and the driver, Noack wasn’t able to pull him out of the vehicle, but he stayed with the driver until emergency personnel arrived about 10 minutes later. The driver was conscious the entire time, and Noack, who has been a truck driver for eight years, was able to keep him calm while they waited.
“I just stayed with him and reassured him that everything would be all right,” Noack said. “I hope if that were ever to happen to me, somebody stops for me.”
Meiborg Brothers Trucking, Rockford, Illinois
Small acts of kindness can often make a big impression. That’s the case with Robert Simpson of Salt Lick, Kentucky.
On June 17, Simpson, along with countless other drivers, was stuck for more than two hours in a traffic jam on Interstate 65 near Franklin, Kentucky. The temperature was well above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Simpson noticed a passenger van on the side of the road that appeared to be having mechanical issues, and he immediately considered that the vehicle’s air conditioning might not be working.
“It looked like it might be one of those military shuttles for the VA (Veterans Administration),” Simpson shared. “I’m a retired veteran, my wife’s a retired veteran. So, I got to thinking while I’m sitting there in traffic — maybe they could use a water.”
Simpson got out of his truck, approached the vehicle carrying four bottles of cold water, and offered them to the van’s passengers. This simple act of kindness was noticed by other motorists stuck in the traffic, who then posted it on social media.
“This driver deserves a gold star and a big raise!” said one Facebook post. “We sat on the road for almost two hours … he sees a van disability … he stops and gets out and gets water out of his truck … and walks it over to them! What a fantastic employee you have!”
As it turned out, the van was not connected with veterans and its passengers were not in need of water, but nonetheless, Simpson’s kindness struck a chord with witnesses to the gesture.
“I didn’t want to see a veteran sitting on the side of the road without water,” said Simpson.
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.