An Arkansas driver was recently recognized for rescuing six victims of a chain-reaction crash in March that involved some 45 vehicles.
The Truckload Carriers Association earlier this week named truck driver Zach Yeakley from Batesville, Arkansas, a Highway Angel for his actions at the scene of a massive accident in dense fog.
Yeakley drives a truck for CFI in Joplin, Missouri. On March 17, around 8:15 a.m., Yeakley was driving to West Memphis, Arkansas and had just crossed the state border into Charleston, Missouri. He heard on his CB radio that there was an accident up ahead, and then he saw smoke and a man wearing a safety vest flagging down drivers to alert them to the accident.
The scene was a fire-filled, chain-reaction crash in dense fog that involved more than 45 vehicles. Yeakley pulled over immediately and jumped into action. “I went up there; they already had a couple of people out,” he said. “Some people had some broken arms, one had a collapsed lung, a few broken ribs from the impact.”
Yeakley, a 15-year member of the Army National Guard, is trained as a combat lifesaver and could quickly assess the severity of the scene. He surveyed the situation so he could tell the paramedics when they arrived. Fire was spreading in the crashed vehicles, and tires were exploding all around them, due to the fire.
"There was one guy trapped in his truck,” he said. “So me, a sheriff, a state trooper, and a FedEx driver, we did what we could to get him out.” Yeakley and the group were able to pry the dashboard off of another trapped crash victim and rescue him from his vehicle. The flames, he said, were surrounding them. Once the crash victim was rescued from his truck, Yeakley and a sheriff ran back to the scene to try to rescue the driver of a car trapped between a truck and a trailer, surrounded by flames.“
By the time we got there, the fire had gotten into the car,” he said.
In total that day, Yeakley helped rescue six crash victims from several vehicles. Police reported at least six fatalities from the fiery crash. Yeakley, who has been driving a truck for four years, said he wouldn’t hesitate to jump back into the fire again to rescue drivers, crediting his military training for preparing him for the experience.
TCA has presented him with a certificate, patches, lapel pin, and truck decals. The company has also received a letter acknowledging him as a Highway Angel.
Since the program’s inception in August 1997, nearly 1,300 professional truck drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the exemplary kindness, courtesy, and courage they have displayed while on the job.