Driver rescues man from burning vehicle

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) has named Joe Bearce of Sapulpa, Okla., a Highway Angel for rescuing a man from a desperate situation.

Bearce is an escort driver with Stone Trucking Co. of Kiefer, Oklahoma.

Joe Bearce

At about 7 p.m. on Dec. 11, Bearce was traveling on Highway 259 southbound in Nacogdoches, Tex. Suddenly, a four-door sedan traveling in the opposite direction came over a hill directly in his lane. To avoid a head-on collision, Bearce turned the wheel hard to the right and went into a ditch. The sedan went off the road, hit an embankment, and flew through the air before coming to a stop.

Bearce got out pf his vehicle and started toward the sedan. Seeing flames coming out from under the hood, he returned to his vehicle to get fire extinguishers. As someone with previous fire department experience, his instinct was to get the driver out, especially now that the flames had fully engulfed the front of the car.

It was dark, and the area was blocked by brush and trees. Bearce had to scale numerous obstacles just to get to the car. Most of the doors were inaccessible. Unable to see, he felt for the door handles, but everything was jammed.

He finally got to the back passenger door and was able to yank it open by throwing all his weight and strength into it as flames reached the interior of the sedan. The driver lay halfway between the two front seats and was unresponsive. Bearce dragged the man out, put him on his back, and began heading away from the flames.

Bearce briefly put the man down so he could step over the debris that was blocking the area. When he picked the man back up, he awoke – and in his confusion, struck Bearce in the face. The disoriented man was convinced that he needed to get back to the car to get his suitcase. Bearce pressed on until he got the other man safely away from the burning sedan. Throughout the whole ordeal, no one else stopped to help until afterward.

When asked about the incident, Bearce said, “If I hadn’t done what I did, there is no doubt in my mind he would have died in that car. I did what I thought I had to do. I’m far from a hero.”

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As a TCA Highway Angel, Bearce has been presented with a certificate, patch, truck decal, and lapel pin. Stone Trucking also received a certificate acknowledging that one of its drivers is a Highway Angel.

TCA’s Highway Angel program is sponsored by EpicVue.

To nominate a driver or learn more about the program and its honorees, visit the Highway Angel Web page at or Facebook page at For additional information, contact TCA at (703) 838-1950 or [email protected].