Professional truck drivers Brandon Kelly, Amanda Carr, Jonathon Adams, Paul Pellerito, and Jesse Harlander 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.
Since the inception of the program in 1997, nearly 1,300 professional truck drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels because of the exemplary kindness, courtesy, and courage they have displayed while on the job. 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.
Hirschbach Motor Lines, Dubuque, Iowa
At about 11 a.m. May 8, 2023, Brandon Kelly of Odessa, Florida, was driving along Interstate 74 in Huntington, West Virginia, when he was flagged down by a man who had parked his Jeep on the side of the road.
“I saw smoke coming from the guy’s vehicle,” Kelly said. He quickly and safely pulled over, grabbed the fire extinguisher from his truck, and called 911.
“He (the vehicle owner) was starting to open the hood of the vehicle to see what it was,” Kelly said. “I told him not to do that because it might feed oxygen to whatever was smoking.”
A former volunteer firefighter, Kelly has basic training that helped with the situation, and he was able to extinguish the fire while on the phone with the 911 dispatcher. When the fire department arrived 15 minutes later, officials told Kelly he was in the right place at the right time. Apparently, there was gas leaking in the vehicle, as well as burned wires, which could have resulted in a fiery disaster.
Kelly, who has been a truck driver for eight years, said he did not hesitate to stop and help.
“I was raised, if somebody needs help, it doesn’t matter what kind of help it is; just stop to see if you can offer some assistance,” he said.
Prime Inc., Springfield, Missouri
Jonathon Adams of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, was in the right place at the right time on June 24, 2023. At about 4 p.m., he was driving along Interstate 64 in Simpsonville, Kentucky, when he saw a passenger vehicle swerve into another lane, causing another passenger vehicle to veer off the road and flip end over end multiple times, landing in a ditch.
“Me being prior law enforcement-trained and I used to be a CPR instructor — I’m definitely a first responder — I definitely needed to pull over and help,” Adams said.
Adams, who also is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, called 911 and safely pulled over to assist.
When he reached the overturned vehicle, three people had managed to get out of the car. However, Adams was told, there was a fourth passenger still inside the vehicle.
Adams pried open the door and found the passenger, a male, who appeared to be severely injured. He asked the passenger if he was able to get out of the vehicle. The man said he could not get out on his own, so Adams pulled him out of the vehicle and put him next to the other passengers, safely off the road.
Next, he returned to the vehicle, turned off the engine, and disconnected the battery to prevent it from catching on fire.
“Everybody was just head concussions, seat belt injuries and just broken bones,” he said.
Adams was able to give first responders, who were en route to the scene, details about the injuries sustained. Another passerby who stopped to help was a nurse, and Adams asked her to keep an eye on one of the passengers, who had head trauma.
Once emergency medical services arrived, Adams advised the crew of the situation and let them know who needed immediate help. He also spoke with police and was able to offer his dash cam footage to help identify the vehicle that had swerved into the other lane. Adams stayed on site for an hour helping the police.
“I really do well in a time of crisis,” Adams noted. “If I get hurt, I’ll figure it out later.”
Skelton Truck Lines, Winchester, Ohio
Amanda Carr, a driver from Brady, Texas, was driving along Interstate 80 through Laramie, Wyoming, at about 4 a.m. June 17. Suddenly, she saw a truck veer off the road into the grass before overcorrecting and rolling onto its right side.
“I think he (the driver) probably fell asleep,” Carr said. “The fuel tank ruptured on the truck when it was sliding down the road.”
Carr, who has been driving rigs for 15 years, stopped to help. She noticed a small fire by the diesel tanks, so she quickly extinguished it.
“I was the only one that was right there,” she said. “The fire really scared me. I had no idea if the driver was going to be trapped. Luckily this little bitty fire extinguisher did the job.”
Though it was a dangerous situation in the middle of the night, Carr never hesitated to come to the other driver’s aid.
“I would want someone to stop for me,” she said. “Hopefully anybody would stop in that situation — it’s the right thing to do.”
Brenny Specialized, Inc., St. Joseph, Minnesota
Jesse Harlander, a 25-year-old driver from Holdingford, Minnesota, earned his angel wings after helping a lost child find his way home. It’s a story that could easily be the setting for a scary movie.
On the evening of April 11, 2023, Harlander was in Indianapolis. He was scheduled to deliver an oversized load of granite to a cemetery first thing the following morning. In preparation, he parked his rig in the cemetery and settled in to read a book.
Shortly after dark, about 8:30 p.m., there was a knock at the door of his truck. Harlander looked out the window and discovered a frightened 12-year-old boy standing outside. He rolled down the window and asked if the boy, who appeared to be lost, needed help.
“He said, ‘Yeah. Help me! Get me out of here!’” Harlander said.
Harlander quickly called 911 and alerted authorities to the child’s situation. He later found out from police that the boy had been heading to a playground, decided to try to take a shortcut through the cemetery, and got lost.
While the boy and Harlander waited for police to arrive, he allowed the boy to look inside the cab of his truck. The boy told him he wanted to play in the NBA someday. Police eventually arrived, and the boy was returned safely to his home.
“It was pretty bizarre,” Harlander said. “I’m glad he got out of there.”
Melton Truck Lines, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Around 7:15 a.m. June 17, 2023, Paul Pellerito of The Villages, Florida, was driving in San Antonio. As he entered the Interstate 10 on-ramp from Interstate 35, he saw a man just off the road, frantically waving for him to stop. Pellerito then spotted a crashed motorcycle, which belonged to the man, on the road about 50 feet ahead.
Pellerito, along with another passerby, stopped to help the man, who had not been wearing a motorcycle helmet and had sustained obvious injuries to his head and leg.
“We dragged him off the highway to the side of the road,” Pellerito said. “I saw that he was cut up and bleeding pretty bad on his face and his lip, so I ran to my truck and got him a towel to put pressure there.”
Pellerito, a 20-year Navy veteran who has been driving a truck for just a year, also called 911 and got a pillow from his truck. The pillow was used to elevate the head of the crash victim, once he was persuaded to lie down on the side of the road. Pellerito communicated with the emergency responders on the phone until EMS arrived on the scene.
“It was somebody in despair,” he said. “He was frantically waving — when you see somebody like that, you just have to do the right thing. It’s a pay it forward type deal.”
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.