Driver fights fire at accident scene; honored for his efforts


A relatively new driver responded like a seasoned veteran when an accident occurred on the highway in front of him, and for that, he was honored by a national trucking organization.

The Truckload Carriers Association has named Linden O’Donnell, a driver with Challenger Motor Freight, a Highway Angel for stopping to assist motorists following the collision that resulted in a vehicle fire.

TCA recounts what happened:

Linden O’Donnell, a driver with Challenger Motor Freight, and a Highway Angel. (TCA photo)Linden O’Donnell, a driver with Challenger Motor Freight, and a Highway Angel. (TCA photo)

It was 4:30 a.m., Aug. 21, and O’Donnell was westbound on Interstate 280 (Essex Freeway) near Harrison, New Jersey. O’Donnell was in the right-hand lane when a vehicle passed him going 60-65 mph. About 500 feet ahead, an SUV was stalled, sideways, in the left lane, in the path of the passing vehicle. However, O’Donnell could see the driver was making no evasive maneuvers to avoid the stalled vehicle and slammed into it. Thankfully, the occupants of the SUV were standing on the shoulder, away from their vehicle. O’Donnell pulled over, grabbed his reflective jacket, and ran over to the scene.

“It was crazy,” O’Donnell said. “The driver appeared to be incoherent and impaired and some of the passengers looked like they had broken noses.” O’Donnell managed to open one of the doors and then saw flames licking out from under the hood of the vehicle. He ran back to his truck for a fire extinguisher and worked on the flames so everyone could get out.

O’Donnell stayed on the scene until first responders arrived. He learned that the stalled SUV had been involved in a one-vehicle accident farther back and 911 had already dispatched police.

TCA said in a statement that O’Donnell’s only been driving a couple of months but has been around the industry for quite some time.

“My dad drove for several years and I saw how much he liked it, so I started doing truck repair and mobile repairs,” he said. “Then I found Challenger and heard they had an excellent program for new drivers.” Thinking back on the accident he witnessed he says there’s no way he wouldn’t have stopped. “It was very reactive,” he says. “I had to do this. It could have been really bad.”

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For his willingness to assist his fellow drivers, TCA has presented O’Donnell with a certificate, patch, lapel pin, and truck decals. His employer has also received a certificate acknowledging their driver as a Highway Angel.

EpicVue sponsors TCA’s Highway Angel program.