Professional truck drivers Douglas Brown, Dylan Goodman, Evert Gott, David Hill, Patrick Lablanc and Nathalie Rivard, Harvell “Keith” Martin, Travis Smallwood, and Greg Truitt have been named
Highway Angels by the Truckload Carriers Association for performing heroic actions while on the job.
Brown, from Dallas is being recognized for rushing to aid a heart-attack victim at the company yard.
Brown was waiting at his company yard while a contractor applied new decals to his tractor. He had stepped into the office to speak with dispatch when the head of the shop rushed in and yelled to call 911. Someone had collapsed to the ground of an apparent heart attack and was unresponsive. Brown ran outside to help. It was the contractor. “He was on the ground and his son, who was with him that day, was holding him,” recalled Brown. “I could see that he was turning blue. His eyes were open, but he wasn’t there. I put my hand under his nose but couldn’t feel any air.”
Brown adjusted the man so he was lying on the ground and began CPR. “I opened his mouth and checked, but he had some chew that was restricting his airway.” He started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to push the obstruction through and open the airway and then resumed chest compressions. Others were now gathering at the scene. Brown continued CPR for 15-20 minutes.
“Another driver, a former fire fighter, came over and helped me keep him alive until the ambulance got there,” said Brown. “They worked on him and got him up almost like nothing was wrong. His son came back a couple days later and finished doing the decals on my truck. I was happy to hear that his father is just fine.”
Goodman, from Conneaut, Ohio, is being recognized for rushing to help after witnessing a horrific crash that gravely injured a motorist.
Since getting behind the wheel, Goodman, only 21, has seen a lot. But what happened on a beautiful clear day in March has hit him the hardest.
He was leaving Justin, Texas, on I-35, heading north toward home. As he drove across a bridge, he saw a small red car across the way, stopped in the slow lane of southbound traffic. “She was in the middle of the lane with her hazards on,” he shared with TCA. He can only speculate as to what was wrong, but he knew she was in danger, given the heavy traffic. “I was yelling on the radio to warn southbound (truck drivers) traffic about what was ahead of them, but nobody runs with CBs anymore,” he said.
All he could do was watch helplessly as a semi-truck came barreling down the road. “He hit her so hard,” he recalled. “I don’t know why he didn’t see her. It was a straight stretch of road.” He said the car shot like a missile down an embankment and into a patch of trees.
Goodman pulled over to the median as the other truck drove another 500 yards down the road. He ran across the road and down the embankment. “I got to the car, and it was just a mangled mess,” he said. “The roof was caved in and the door was pinched in on her. She was groaning and still conscious. I don’t know where I got it, but I was able to pull the door open and pry the roof back and get into the vehicle to assess her condition.” Goodman is a former EMT. “She had a faint pulse and didn’t have a clear airway. She was so twisted up in the car I couldn’t secure her to get her out.”
Goodman believes the driver was in her 30s.
“I tried to comfort her to let her know someone was there with her … she was fading fast. I wish I could have done more. I feel horrible for her family.” He said she died about 30 minutes later.
“Doing this job, you see a lot of stuff. Nothing can really prepare you for being put in that situation. You want to be able to show a little compassion. If it means losing an hour of drive time, well, tomorrow is a new day. Right now, I’m on my way back to Texas. I made a cross for her. I noticed when I went through last week there was nothing there for her. I’ll put it on the side of the road for her.”
Gott, from Lacassine, Louisiana, is being recognized for aiding another driver who was injured after his truck rolled over, dumping hot asphalt.
It was mid-afternoon on May 1, and Gott was heading to Fort Worth, Texas, when he saw a dump truck carrying hot asphalt roll over in the eastbound lanes of I-20 just outside Vicksburg, Mississippi.
“He was going into a curve, blew a tire, lost control, and flipped over,” shared Gott. “The guardrail stopped him.” Gott pulled over as quickly as he could and ran back to the scene. “I did my best Dukes-of-Hazzard jump to get over the guardrail,” he quipped. “By the time I got to the truck, he was barely walking and trying to move around the front of the truck toward the guardrail.”
Asphalt had spread all over the road and in to the truck. “He had tar on his side. He was in pain and his skin was peeling off,” recalled Gott. “I helped him to my truck to get him in the shade where he could sit down.” He gave the man a bottle of cold water. A deputy arrived and called an ambulance. “It took what seemed like hours to arrive,” Gott shared.
Gott did his best to help and comfort the driver until paramedics and police arrived. The man’s wife arrived before emergency vehicles. She thanked Gott several times for stopping and helping her husband. Gott stayed at the scene for more than three hours, until the cleanup was done. “The asphalt had spread from shoulder to shoulder, about 2 inches thick all across the highway,” he said. “I couldn’t move until they were done.” As he reflected on the accident, he noted that it happened on Friday, May 1, at 2:30 p.m., exactly two weeks after his mother died. “It made me wonder,” he said, his voice trailing off. “I was thinking about her.”
Hill is being recognized for helping a motorist who hit a patch of treacherous black ice.
January 30 found David Hill on I-29, just north of Fargo, North Dakota. He was coming from Winnipeg, bound for the southern end of Wisconsin. “There was some ice on the roads, so I was only going about 55 mph, under the speed limit,” he recalled. “I was taking my time, cruising along. I saw a car come up beside me. She wasn’t speeding, but as she changed lanes to come back into the right lane, she hit a patch of black ice in the center of the road.” Hill slowed and watched as the car was thrown toward a snowbank on the right. “She flew through it like a tornado and went about 100 yards off the road into a field,” he said. The car spun out and ended up on its driver’s side. “I stopped and bailed out of my truck in my running shoes, and went barreling through snow up to my knees,” Hill said. When he got to the car, he found the passenger side door was nearly ripped off the car.
Hill said the driver was a 16-year-old young woman. “She was scared pretty good and screaming for help. I told her I was there.” He climbed up on the vehicle and stood on the windshield wipers. “She was laying there against the driver’s door, covered in snow. She was only wearing a t-shirt and jeans, the kind with holes all over them.”
Hill jumped down into the back seat, calmed the young woman, unbuckled her, and helped her from the vehicle. “I grabbed her coat from the backseat and we found her boots that had flown out of the car, and she put those on. It was pretty cold, below zero. I got her back to my truck and kept her warm until the state troopers got there. She wasn’t hurt, only a couple bumps on her head and some scrapes on one arm.” She told Hill she was on her way to work. “Being 16 years old, a crash like that, she was lucky,” he said.
Patrick Leblanc and Nathalie Rivard
Leblanc and Rivard, from Notre Dame Du Mont Carmel, Quebec, Canada, are being recognized for aiding a driver who fell asleep at the wheel and went off the road.
It was around 1 a.m. on April 27. Driving team Leblanc and his wife, Rivard, were traveling along Trans-Canada Highway 1 West near Bassano, Alberta. Leblanc, who takes the night shift, was behind the wheel. He slowed as he saw a pickup truck off the side of the road, lying on its side. After pulling to the shoulder, Leblanc and Rivard hurried back to check on the driver. Another truck stopped, and Leblanc asked the driver to call 911. He then checked on the pickup truck driver.
“He was in a state of shock, and his left arm was cut and bleeding,” shared Leblanc. “He didn’t know where he was.” The passenger side of the pickup was smashed. Everything in the pickup had flown through the windshield. “He couldn’t find his phone and wanted to call his wife in British
Columbia, but he was pretty shaken,” added Leblanc. “I called her for him and told her he would be all right.” As they waited for help to arrive, Leblanc and Rivard gave the driver water from their truck and calmed and reassured him.
What had happened? “The pavement was dry,” Leblanc shared with TCA. “The driver must have fallen asleep and when he hit the soft shoulder, that woke him up, but it was too late. He probably turned the steering wheel too hard and that caused him to flip over.”
As they waited for EMS to arrive, Leblanc cleared debris from the road. Other passersby stopped to ask if more help was needed. The next morning, the pair were relieved to receive a call from the driver’s wife who told them he had needed 15-20 stitches but would be all right. She thanked them for all they did to help.
Leblanc has been driving since 1998 and has been with Challenger Motor Freight since 2007. He has stopped many times over his driving career to help others in need out on the road. He received a million-mile safety award from Challenger in 2017. Rivard has driven for 10 years. She and Leblanc have been driving together for eight years, traveling throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Harvell “Keith” Martin
Martin, from Tallapoosa, Georgia, is being recognized for rushing to free a woman trapped in her burning car.
It was a cold, rainy day in December and Martin was on I-40 near Hickory, North Carolina. His 18-year-old son, John, was riding with him. As they were pulling out of a rest area, they waited for a car to pass. A short while later, they watched as the same vehicle lost control on the slick road, spun out, and ran off the road and down into a ravine. Without hesitation, Martin pulled over, and he and his son jumped out. They could see either smoke or steam coming from the car, so Martin grabbed a fire extinguisher and they both ran down the embankment. The driver’s side of the car was slammed against a tree. A moment later, the car was on fire. Another truck stopped and brought a second fire extinguisher. However, they made no difference against the flames. “They were actually making it worse,” recalled Martin. The driver, a woman in her late 20s, was conscious, but trapped inside, and one leg was pinned. She was also pregnant. “My son wanted to go in, but I wouldn’t let him,” shared Martin. He got into the car, cut the woman out of her seatbelt, and managed to pull her out from the passenger side. “It was so hot in there,” he said. The other truck driver helped Martin and his son carry the woman a safe distance from the burning vehicle.
When paramedics arrived, they found that Martin sustained burns to his arm and the back of his head. “Like a bad sunburn with blisters,” he recalled. Someone later found his melted headset at the scene. Thankfully, his son was not injured. “He wants to drive a truck so bad,” he shared, adding that John has ridden with him in the truck quite a bit. Martin has been driving since 1996 and driving OTR since 2010. “It’s a safe job if you watch what you’re doing and you’re careful,” he said. “but last month we saw two people die in car accidents in a week.”
Truitt, from Mount Airy, North Carolina, is being recognized for stopping to help an elderly woman stranded alone on the road.
It was 3 a.m. one day in early April, and Truitt was traveling on U.S. 460 on his way to Charleston, West Virginia, from Roanoke, Virginia. As a storm approached, the wind had picked up and it was starting to rain. Suddenly, two deer came across the highway in front of him. Only one made it; the other lost its footing on the pavement and stumbled. Truitt couldn’t avoid striking it.
“I think she went down a little bit before I struck her,” he recalled. “It didn’t feel like it did much damage, but I did need to pull over and check everything out.” However, there was no good place to pull over and no emergency lane. “Before I could find a place, I saw a car up ahead, backed into the ditch sideways. The front end was sticking out a foot or two into the right travel lane.” As he got closer, he could see a white-haired woman in the driver’s seat. There was a handicap placard hanging from the rearview mirror. “We have to be careful,” said
Truitt. “Sometimes you’re being set up for something.” But after seeing the elderly woman behind the wheel, he decided to trust the situation and decided he should check on her.
Truitt pulled over and positioned his truck, partially blocking the right lane. “Her vehicle was turned sideways, you couldn’t see her headlights, and she didn’t have her four-ways on. Someone could have come by and caught the front end of the car.” Acting swiftly, he grabbed a flashlight and went over to check on the driver. “She thought she was out of gas,” he recalled. “She said she was in her 90s and had come from her sister’s, which was a pretty good way from where she was.” He surmised that she might have made a wrong turn and just kept driving. “She told me her son lived in Lynchburg and gave me his name. She couldn’t think of his number, bless her heart.” Truitt wasn’t able to find the number on the internet. “I told her I would call 911 to get her some help.” He stayed with her until two sheriff’s patrol cars arrived.
Truitt was able to get in touch with the woman’s son a few days later to make sure she was safe. “He was a retired police officer,” shared Truitt. “He thanked me for stopping and said she’s doing well. I don’t feel like I did anything special. Most of the truck drivers out here are good people. I’m sure 98% of the people that came across that situation would have done the same thing. I’m glad the Lord put me in the right spot at the right time so I could help her.”
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.
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.
To meet more Highway Angel recipients, visit www.highwayangel.org.