Dispatcher Ann Mente, of Tipton, Iowa, was driving her 11-year-old son to school one morning last September. As they rode up over the top of a hill they suddenly saw a frightening sight. Before them were two cars that had just collided head-on in the middle of the road.
“It didn’t look real at first,” Mente says. But when she saw smoke beginning to pour from one of the cars, and them flames as it caught fire, she was jolted into action.
“It did cross my mind that I didn’t want to run up there,” Mente says. “But all I could think of was what if it were me or one of my kids.”
Mente raced to the burning car, its front end now engulfed in flames. The driver was still inside. She pulled on the driver’s door, but it wouldn’t open. “All I could think was that he’s got to get out of there,” she says. “I was scared to death of the fire, but I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t do something to help him.”
She used her forearm to smash the driver-side window. She reached in through the opening and managed to get a grip on him under his arms. With the flames licking at the car, she fought to drag him out. “Luckily he was awake and could wiggle himself while I pulled him out, because I don’t know that I could have gotten him out of there,” she says. The man’s feet had been hurt badly, but with Mente’s help he was able to walk away from the still-burning vehicle.
Mente went back to the wreck to help the driver of the other car. He had managed to get himself out of the vehicle and was leaning against it. Mente could see he had a broken bone protruding from his leg, and she did what she could for him until the emergency medical team arrived.
Then she returned to her son, who had been watching from their car.
“He said, ‘Good job, Mom,'” she recalls, and she knew that although the incident had upset both of them, she had done the right thing. “He said he wished he could have done something to help,” Mente says, and she believes that when he is old enough, he will follow his mother’s example.
Mente’s forearm smash and desperate rescue from the driver’s seat left her unhurt.
Mente received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate, and patch for her efforts at the scene of the accident. Smithway Motor Xpress, Inc., also received a certificate for acknowledging a Highway Angel in their midst. Mente has been employed at one of Smithway’s terminals for about eight years.
Since its inception in August 1997, the Highway Angel program has recognized hundreds of drivers for the unusual kindness, courtesy and courage they have shown others while on the job. TCA has received letters and e-mails from people across the country nominating truck drivers for the program. To nominate someone, visit www.truckload.org.