Chad LeClair saw a doll fly out of the window of an out-of-control minivan as it catapulted across the median. But a fatherly instinct that made him doubt his own eyes saved a baby.
The Spencer, Iowa, driver was on Interstate 80 in Nebraska, when he noticed the minivan, stuffed full with personal belongings, speed past him. When the van attempted to return into the right lane, the driver apparently lost control.
The minivan spun completely around, crossed the median and flipped over three times in a grassy area. LeClair saw a tiny object fly out of the vehicle.
“I thought it was a doll at first, the way it flew out of the car and bounced on the ground like that,” LeClair said.
He immediately stopped his rig to try to help the three injured passengers. But as he ran towards the van, he said, something told him to look down into a ditch. That’s when he realized that it was not a doll he had seen, it was a baby.
“It was quite an experience to see her lying there,” he said. “It was like she had been placed there.”
His first instinct was to help the infant. As soon as he touched her, the baby moved. LeClair was relieved. He checked her carefully and found only a cut on her mouth and another on the back of her head. Then the baby rolled over on her own and began crying.
“I about lost it then. I was so thankful she was able to cry,” said LeClair, who has a baby of his own at home. “I had never dealt with an infant in that situation before.”
After the paramedics arrived, LeClair waited until the adult passengers and the baby were safely into the ambulance before he went back to his rig.
LeClair found it difficult dealing with the incident afterwards, constantly worrying if the baby was OK. The hero driver said he was so thankful he was there because if he had not been, it would have been that much longer for someone to find the infant in that ditch.
LeClair received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch for his efforts. Smithway Motor Xpress also received a certificate for acknowledging a Highway Angel in their midst.
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 emails from people across the country nominating truck drivers for the program.
Affected tractors are equipped with an automated Eaton UltraShift Plus or Eaton Advantage Transmission with right hand stalk shifter. In the affected trucks, the display on the instrument panel can indicate “N” when the shifter is set into “D” or “R,” causing the truck not to move.