On Dec. 14, 2009, ABF Freight Systems driver Steffen Racher was traveling on Interstate 40 just past Needles, Calif., when he came across a flipped SUV.
Several passengers had been ejected from the vehicle and were lying in the roadway, in danger of being hit or killed by passing traffic. Although the people were alive, some were bleeding profusely and at least one appeared to have a head injury. The driver was trapped in the driver’s seat.
Racher maneuvered his truck around the people, pulled to the shoulder of the road and, with the assistance of another motorist, started moving people off the highway. Meanwhile, the vehicle began smoking. Knowing the driver could not free himself, Racher grabbed his fire extinguisher and attempted to put out the fire. When he could not, he obtained another fire extinguisher from the driver of a flatbed trailer who had stopped to help. The smoldering worsened, turning into a flame.
A California Highway Patrol arrived and rescued the trapped driver from the SUV, just as Racher and the other motorist finished moving the victims to safety. Seconds later, the vehicle exploded.
“I’ve helped people before who needed water or needed help changing a tire, but I had never seen anything like this,” says Racher, who has driven trucks for about 11 years and was recognized by the Truckload Carriers Association as a Highway Angel for his efforts. “I see tons of wrecks on every trip. This was the worst accident I’ve ever seen.”