A Tennessee trucker was recently honored for helping another driver during a tornado late last year.
The Truckload Carriers Association has named Charles Bearden, from Etowah, Tennessee, a Highway Angel for stopping to assist another truck driver whose tractor trailer was thrown into a field by a tornado. Beardon drives for Purdy Brothers Trucking.
The evening of Dec. 10, 2021 is one many will long remember for the string of devastating tornados that swung through part of the country. Bearden had picked up a load in Jackson, Tennessee, that day and was heading west on I-155 near the Tennessee-Missouri state line.
“It had been cloudy all day and now there was bad lightning and the wind was starting to pick up,” he said “The more I proceeded West, the worse it got."
As Bearden crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri, a major weather alert arrived on his phone.
“It said to stop and find shelter immediately — imminent danger, tornado on the ground,” he said.
Each time lightning lit up the sky, Bearden could see the tornado sweeping across farm fields.
“When I was on top of the bridge, I saw that bad boy. It was a big one,” he said. “The cloud the funnel was in was so big you couldn’t tell it was a tornado. On the ground it was probably the size of a football field.”
Bearden watched as the tornado moved across the sky, zig-zagged, and then went out of sight. As the wind died down, he continued on his way. Then, as he glanced around at the open farm fields, he saw a tractor-trailer lying on its side about 350 feet away from the road. Without a moment to spare, he safely pulled over and rushed toward the truck. Another motorist had reached the scene just minutes ahead of him and helped the driver out of his overturned truck. Bearden quickly called 911. He learned the tornado had completely picked the tractor-trailer up off the road and dragged it sideways.
“The only thing touching the ground was the front right steer tire,” he said. “It blew his windows out and sucked everything out of the truck.”
The driver’s phone was found several hundred feet away. Although the truck driver was dazed, he was able to walk on his own and didn’t appear to be seriously injured. Bearden knows how lucky he was that day.
“This is the second time I’ve seen a tornado in that exact same spot,” he said.
TCA presented him with a certificate, patches, lapel pin, and truck decals. The company has also received a letter acknowledging him as a Highway Angel.