Drivers Laurie Clifford, of Prescott, Ontario, and Craig Sutherland of Bracebridge, Ontario, were driving separate trucks westbound on Highway 17 in Ontario, Canada Aug. 22, with Sutherland leading and Clifford following. The two drivers were talking with one another over the CB when a westbound motorist ahead of them swerved into oncoming traffic and hit an eastbound minivan head-on.
Clifford and Sutherland stopped to check on motorists injured in the crash. There was an injured woman in the westbound vehicle and three other passengers in the eastbound vehicle, which had fallen down an incline. The woman driving the westbound vehicle told Sutherland she’d been reaching for a water bottle on the floorboard when she swerved, overcorrected, and lost control of her vehicle.
One of the passengers in the eastbound vehicle was an elderly woman who had sustained serious injuries. Clifford was able to get her out of the car, along with the two other vehicle occupants. Clifford stayed by her side, but the elderly woman died by the time the paramedics and police arrived an hour later. Paramedics tried to revive her with CPR but were unsuccessful.
“It was really hard on me, for quite some time,” Clifford said. “I go by that same spot every week and can still see that lady laying there. It was terrible. I’ve been driving for over 50 years and have seen a lot. You try to do what you can do, and that just comes naturally. But afterward … that’s when it hits you, what did I just do?”
Sutherland stayed with the injured motorist in the eastbound vehicle until emergency personnel arrived to cut her out of the car. Sutherland and Clifford were on the scene for eight hours.
“That day it didn’t work out for everyone, but thankfully we were there to help the others and comfort the woman who passed so she wasn’t scared or alone,” Sutherland said.
As part of their Highway Angels recognition, Clifford and Sutherland each received a certificate, patch, lapel pin, and truck decals.