A Young Life in His Hands

Trucker Wade Weirenga, with his trusty yellow Labrador Retriever, alerted police to a kidnapper’s location.

Through the dusk of a Wyoming evening, trucker Wade Wierenga coolly used his 2002 Pete to tail a car he suspected held an abducted 5-year-old girl, whose mother had been found dead, and her armed kidnapper as they rolled west on the interstate. Trying not to alert the driver to his presence, he contacted the highway patrol.

Weirenga would follow the car when it left the Interstate and tried to lose him. He would be there when law enforcement followed his directions, surrounded the car and tried to free the girl from her armed kidnapper – her father.

And all the time Wierenga had in his mind thoughts of his own daughters and granddaughters.
Wierenga, who is leased to East West Motor Express, a division of Smithway Motor Xpress, was pulling his flatbed through Nebraska when he first heard of the abduction. He saw an Amber Alert flashing on a sign over the Interstate. The Topeka, Kan., police had issued the alert for 5-year-old Stormy Shirk after her mother was found dead in their home.

Wierenga, a 45-year-old resident of Hermosa, S.D., then stopped at a truckstop, and the case entered his life again. He found a flier with more information about the abduction. The alert described the girl’s suspected abductor along with the vehicle she was taken in and its license plate number. The police suspected they were headed for Oregon.

That evening Wierenga was traveling through Wyoming just before dark when he noticed a car that fit the description carrying a man and child, and he maneuvered his truck closer.
“The color didn’t look quite right, but the license plate was covered by mud,” Wierenga says.

He couldn’t read the state on the mud-smeared license plate, but the numbers matched the alert.

“I dropped back and tried to follow him, keep an eye on him,” Wierenga says.

Wierenga called the highway patrol but didn’t alert any fellow drivers to the potential kidnapper. “I didn’t talk to anyone else on the radio,” he says. “I was afraid he would get to feeling cornered.” Wierenga didn’t want to take any chances with the child in the car.

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Eventually, the abductor noticed Wierenga’s truck following him and took a side road, then shut his lights off. Wierenga tailed him, with only his yellow Labrador Retriever for protection, and positioned himself where the abductor would have to pull past him to get back on the Interstate. He kept in close contact with the highway patrol and directed them to the car’s location.

“The law did an excellent job of getting him surrounded out there,” Wierenga says. The abductor let the little girl go and then shot himself.

“I didn’t think there was a chance he’d let the little girl go,” Wierenga says. “I was just relieved to hear that.”

Wierenga credits the Amber Alert system and the police with saving the child’s life.

“The Amber Alert was the whole key to it, getting that information out to us,” he says. “The real heroes here were the police who cornered the man and got that little girl back in one piece.”

The incident hit close to home for Wierenga, who has four daughters and two granddaughters. “I worry about them constantly, so it was really nice to be able to help get this little girl back safely,” he says.

Electrifying Bravery
A steady hand and head helped Canadian trucker Phil Tarrant execute a daring rescue dangerously close to power lines and save the life of an accident victim who was in danger of drowning.

Tarrant, an employee of Vedder Transport Ltd., was driving on Highway 7 in British Columbia, Canada, in April last year when a car in front of him hit a utility pole, flipped upside down and landed in a water-filled ditch. The car’s lone occupant was trapped inside.

Tarrant, of Abbotsford, British Columbia, realized the occupant could drown and positioned his truck close to the partially submerged car. With the help of a passing motorist, Tarrant hooked the 17-ton crane on his tractor to the car and – guiding the crane over live power lines – lifted the car four feet out of the water so the occupant could breathe.

Tarrant used the crane to hold the vehicle in place for 20 minutes until emergency personnel arrived on the scene and got the occupant, a woman, out of the vehicle. When she was safe, Tarrant lifted the vehicle over the power lines and set it down safely beside the road.

The crane is permanently attached between Tarrant’s cab and fifth wheel, and he uses it to load and unload construction equipment – often rebar – off his flatbed.

For his heroism, Tarrant was chosen as the 2004 Bridgestone/Firestone Canadian Truck Hero. The 49th professional Canadian transport truck driver to win the award since its inception in 1956, Tarrant received a trophy and $5,000 from Bridgestone/Firestone Canada. The award is given annually by Bridgestone/Firestone Canada to a Canadian trucker who demonstrates courage, quick thinking and integrity in the face of emergency.

“Phil Tarrant exhibited extraordinary poise and professionalism in a crisis situation,” said Jim West, district manager, commercial products Eastern Canada for Bridgestone/Firestone, in presenting Mr. Tarrant with the award in November at the Ontario Trucking Association Convention. “His courage and determination in carrying out a rescue mission fraught with danger can only be described as an act of true heroism. His conduct in the face of such adversity exemplifies what the Bridgestone/Firestone Canadian Truck Hero Award is all about.”

The award winner is selected from among nominations submitted by Canadian trucking companies, which are required to include a police statement corroborating the nominated driver’s actions.

Indians in Paris
For one trucking company boss, art is a passion, and he does something about it.

For the past five years, Celadon has sponsored a sculpture contest for students at the Herron School of Art at Indiana University – Purdue University in Indianapolis, the company’s headquarters. Each winning sculpture has been put on display at the company’s headquarters.

Now Celadon is co-sponsoring the exhibit “Indians in the Louvre: The Art of Walt Wooten” at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis.

“Celadon is thrilled to have the opportunity to help bring an exhibit like this to Indianapolis,” says Celadon Chairman and CEO Steve Russell. “I love art. People need to be passionate about what they’re doing, and the best artists are the ones who are passionate. That appeals to me.”

The exhibit features 12 paintings from Walt Wooten’s “A Visit to the Louvre” series, which depicts American Indians in traditional clothing standing in front of paintings at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The series was inspired by the story of 11 Ojibwa Indians who toured Paris in 1845, led by George Catlin, an ethnologist and painter. Catlin took the American Indians to the Louvre and the legendary Moulin Rouge club, where they captivated Parisian audiences, including King Louis Phillipe and his queen.

Wooten, the grandson of a full-blooded Choctaw Indian, looks for ways to imaginatively represent Native Americans in his work. This series presents both an exchange and collision between the European and Native American cultures. Each painting envisions the Indians’ first encounters with works of art from the 17th through 19th centuries.

Celadon provided a local radio station with complimentary passes to the museum as giveaways for selected listeners.

“Indians in the Louvre” was scheduled to end Jan. 2.

Makeover Help
Nearly two dozen movers and an 18-wheeler helped one Seattle-area family get the home of their dreams.

In November, Continental Van Lines lent a helping hand to the Dore family as part of ABC’s hit show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Continental Van Lines in Seattle moved and stored the family’s belongings while their fire-damaged home was renovated.

Continental provided up to 20 professional movers and packers to sort the family’s items and transport them to storage in only five hours flat. Then, when the house renovation was completed seven days later, Continental moved the family back into their Kingston, Wash., home.

Each episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition changes the lives of a family in challenging circumstances, completely renovating their home in seven days. The team, led by carpenter Ty Pennington, is made up of designers, contractors and hundreds of workers who rebuild the family’s home – interior, exterior and landscaping included.

Past episodes have chronicled the team enlarging a home for a couple expecting triplets, rebuilding a home for eight children who lost their parents and making a home more accessible for a wheelchair-bound young man.

“We’re very excited to be a part of this,” says Ginnie Blaine, vice president of Continental Van Lines. “It’s a great way to help out someone while doing what we do best – quick, efficient moves.”