Team drivers Dave Woodman and Tony Rheault of N. Yanke Transfer, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, have been named Highway Angels by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) for their help at the scene of a serious accident.
On August 24, 2010, at approximately 12:00 p.m., Woodman was driving along Highway 17 near Blind River, Ontario, Canada, while his fellow driver Rheault slept in his bunk. Woodman saw a Ford Explorer cross the center line on a curve and collide with an oncoming tanker. The damage to the Explorer was extensive.
Woodman quickly parked the truck and was the first one on the scene. He began directing traffic around the crash site to protect the accident victims from possible further injury. He also kept curious onlookers away. Soon, he smelled highly explosive aviation fuel leaking from the tanker and realized it was covering the road. Worried that a fire could break out, he and several other motorists used five-gallon buckets provided by another trucker to contain the flow.
Meanwhile, seeing that the driver’s side of the Explorer was smashed against the guard rail, Rheault ran to the passenger side and helped an adult female get out from behind the airbag. She was conscious, but in shock, covered in blood, and deeply concerned about her husband. By now, other motorists had stopped to help, including a retired nurse, who had also witnessed the crash. She began treating the husband, who had suffered extensive injuries, and asked Rheault to retrieve a first aid kit from her car. Rheault served as her assistant, handing her gauze and other medical supplies as needed. He also pushed back the shattered windshield so the nurse could better reach the man’s face.
While all this was happening, the couple’s daughter, son-in-law and grandchild arrived at the scene. They had been driving in the vehicle in front of their parents, as all had just finished a family vacation and were returning home. When they realized the parents were no longer behind them, they turned around to see what had happened. In the midst of the chaos and despite their shock and grief, the family members were able to soothe their distraught mother and comfort their father while the nurse worked on him.
In about 20 minutes, emergency personnel arrived. Because of Woodman’s ability to control the traffic and onlookers, they were able to pull right in next to the accident scene and wasted no time using the Jaws of Life to cut the driver out of the car. The 77-year old man was rushed to the hospital, but unfortunately died shortly thereafter.
The nurse later wrote a very complimentary e-mail to N. Yanke Transfer praising Rheault and Woodman for their valuable assistance. “Please tell your men to be proud of their excellent emergency response to this stranger,” she wrote. “I think if your men had not been as responsive and diligent as they were, then the driver more than likely may not have even made it to the hospital. I believe we kept him alive long enough to have … his family around him to comfort him and say their last goodbyes.”
Both Rheault and Woodman speak modestly about their involvement at the accident scene. “When you have an accident like this and you start to attach families and relatives to it, it really starts to mean something. You realize that could have been my own parents,” said Woodman. Rheault, who dreamt about the incident for about a month afterward, said, “It’s just the way it is. I hope I can help someon