Wayne Marco, of Johnson City, Tenn., was heading from Indianapolis to Michigan on I-69 when he noticed a van pulled over on the road’s shoulder. As he continued past the stalled vehicle he also noticed handicapped plates on it, and smoke billowing from its engine.
Marco spotted two women in the front of the van and an elderly woman in the back; he grew concerned about the stranded women and decided to return to offer his assistance, or at least his cell phone. After finding a place to safely turn his truck around, Marco returned to the scene to find the smoke had turned into flames. The two women that had been in the front seats were now outside, but Marco did not see the elderly woman.
The fearless driver grabbed his fire extinguisher and dashed toward the burning van. “I pulled the pin on the extinguisher and stuck it into the grille, and when the windshield cleared, I could see the woman in her chair, bent over and coughing,” Marco said.
He knew he had to rescue the trapped woman. The doors were locked, so Marco jerked the handle on the van’s side door, popped it open, and in spite of the flames burning on the front passenger seat, he jumped into the vehicle.
Marco attempted to pick the lady up by her wheelchair, but it was still locked into place. He called to one of the other women on the scene to show him how to release it, and quickly pulled the woman in the wheelchair down the ramp.
The blaze was no longer restricted to the van. The grass surrounding it had caught on fire, and the intense heat caused the tires to blow off and the asphalt beneath to melt. The dangerous situation did not stop Marco from rescuing the woman.
“The smoke was so thick, they had to shut the interstate down. I had never thought about it [the danger] until I was up in the van trying to get her out and the tires blew. I was wondering if the tank would blow up, too,” said Marco.
Marco said his heroic efforts were made worthwhile when the woman he brought to safety hugged and thanked him.
“She thanked me and said, ‘God bless you.’ That made it all worth it. It brought tears to my eyes,” Marco said.
The Highway Angel program recognizes hundreds of truck drivers for their unusual kindness and courtesy to others while on the job. Petro Stopping Centers and Volvo Trucks North America are exclusive sponsors of the Highway Angel program, which was initiated in 1997. The goal of the program is to support driver professionalism and elevate public awareness of the many outstanding drivers in the trucking industry.