Brady Watson, a car-hauler for United Road Services, enjoys his job. He also likes tattoos and racing. But what the 28-year-old loves most of all is being a dad and getting to spend time with his daughter, 7-year-old Jah’Rai, and his son, 5-year-old Amarri.
Jah’Rai loves to dance, and she and Amarri will likely play sports soon. Watson is thankful to be able to share this time with his children, because he knows all too well that life can be short.
In the wee hours of the morning on June 3, 2020, Watson’s life nearly came to an end. He said he believes he must have had “an angel on his back” when he struck a deer while riding his 2012 Victory Highball motorcycle on Interstate 55 North near St. Louis. He also had another angel near him that night — a Highway Angel.
Jason Quinlin, a driver with Riverside Transport, was also northbound on I-55 at that time, hauling a load of charcoal bricks to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, when he saw something lying in the left lane ahead of him. He recalls that he was overtaking a tanker truck when he noticed lights in the road.
“I saw a blinking light and a red light,” shared Quinlin. “There was something in my lane; I just didn’t know what it was. I finally figured out that it was a headlight.”
Quinlin put on his brakes and radioed other drivers on his CB, warning them of something in the road ahead. He jumped out of his truck and approached the scene. That’s where he found Watson. Quinlin said Watson’s head was lying in a pool of blood, and he quickly realized the lights he had seen from his cab were on a motorcycle. Watson wasn’t wearing a helmet.
Soon, a UPS truck stopped. The driver called 911 while Quinlin retrieved gloves and gauze from his truck before returning to Watson.
“He didn’t know where he was or what had happened,” recalled Quinlin. “I said, ‘Hey, talk to me.’”
Although Watson doesn’t remember anything after hitting the deer, Quinlin said the two talked about racing and Watson’s kids while they awaited medical help. Watson also spoke to his girlfriend, Jasmine, using Quinlin’s phone, and Quinlin left two voicemails for Watson’s mother.
Shortly thereafter, police arrived, and a helicopter took Watson to the hospital. Quinlin answered necessary questions from medical personnel and then returned to his truck and headed on to Wisconsin.
Before going to sleep that day, Quinlin texted Watson’s mother and was told that he had received 11 staples in his head but would be going home soon. Watson said he spent about five hours at the hospital that morning. In addition to the staples, he had a concussion and a sprained wrist and ankle, as well as road rash on his arms and hands.
Not too long after the accident, Quinlin received his first text from Watson, thanking him for what he had done. The two have spoken at least every other day since then.
“The cops said I was a hero because I was paying attention and didn’t run him over,” said Quinlin. “It could have been a lot worse.”
Watson agrees, adding that even though he doesn’t remember much from the scene, he is thankful that Quinlin saw him — and even more thankful that he stopped to help a stranger.
“Jason’s fast reaction protected me on the ground,” said Watson. “It is scary watching the video, and watching the tanker come right by me in the right lane while I’m in the left lane. There’s 100 different scenarios of how that accident could have turned out. I’m just glad he had his eyes up and was paying attention. Otherwise he probably wouldn’t have seen me lying there.”
Quinlin said he simply did what he felt was right, adding that his actions that morning were “just a common reaction” and he “would think anyone else would do the same.”
Quinlin said he has always preferred driving at night simply because there is less traffic. He took the I-55 route that morning to avoid the St. Louis metro area, as he always does.
Watson and Quinlin had an undeniable connection after that morning, and the two have not only developed a friendship, but also a mentorship. Quinlin has fondly nicknamed Watson “Bubble Wrap.” Watson is looking to become an owner-operator, and said he likes having Quinlin to help him with the ins and outs of trucking.
“It is an instant, lifelong connection,” shared Watson. “Without him, I wouldn’t be here. Me and him just sparked, and I related to him. There are commonalities there, and he gives me pointers. We’re on different shifts, but we talk a lot.”
Recently, the two men met again for the first time following the accident and spent the day together with Watson’s family. They plan to meet up again when their schedules line up, even though it might be a challenge, with Quinlin being a “night owl” as Watson calls him.
“I realized that [morning] that anything can happen, and I am not ready to leave my kids,” Watson shared. “This whole night changed my life mentally. I’m jumping feet first in on buying my own truck. If something someday happens and there’s not a Jason around, I want my kids to be taken care of.”
Quinlin was recognized by the Truckload Carriers Association as a Highway Angel for his actions that morning. He received a certificate, patch, lapel pin, and truck decals. Riverside Transport has also received a certificate acknowledging its driver as a Highway Angel.
“I’d do it every day if I had to,” said Quinlin. “If you can’t respect anyone else’s life, how can you respect your own?”