Tanker driver honored for actions during Florida collision

Updated Jan 23, 2021

A Groendyke Transport driver was recently honored for his efforts to avoid a head-on collision while driving in Florida.

The Truckload Carriers Association named Morgan Kirkland, from Milton, Florida a Highway Angel for his skill in preventing a deadly head-on collision while transporting highly flammable methanol.

The TCA explains:

Morgan Kirkland, from Milton, Florida, was named a Highway Angel by TCAMorgan Kirkland, from Milton, Florida, was named a Highway Angel by TCA

Kirkland was traveling eastbound on US Hwy 90 at around 2 a.m. in late September between Pensacola and Pace, Florida. He was hauling methanol. There was a light rain coming down. While driving across a bridge, only one of the two eastbound lanes was operable due to Hurricane Sally, which had washed out the other lane. “There was usually a DOT person standing there, monitoring the sides of the road so that no one would use them,” said Kirkland. He noticed a set of lights in front of him, but the rain was distorting them. At first, he thought it was the DOT person on the side of the road. “Before I knew it, the lights swerved, and I realized it was actually a car on the wrong side of the road coming at me full speed. I couldn’t tell exactly where he was until the last few seconds.”

Kirkland had nowhere to go and had a line of cars behind him. “I knew that if I moved to the side of the road, those behind me would have been killed. They wouldn’t have known what was coming.” All he could do was slow down and get everyone to move over. “I was able to get a third of my rig into the bad lane, but unfortunately, it resulted in me pinning a vehicle between the bridge wall and the back end of my highly explosive trailer.” Kirkland couldn’t avoid a collision. The oncoming vehicle, a Jeep, hit his trailer. “It ripped the entire axle out from under my trailer and just missed my tractor. It scraped along the side of the tank and took out the rear end of the trailer.”

Kirkland got out and approached the Jeep. The driver was conscious. Kirkland told him he was hauling methanol, which was very volatile and instructed him not to open his door as it could create a spark. Meanwhile, Kirkland says help arrived quickly and everyone was immediately evacuated. The driver of the oncoming vehicle was cited for DUI and driving the wrong direction on the roadway.

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“My worst fear almost came true, that I would die in this truck,” said Kirkland. “What I do for a living scares me to death. I’ve got six beautiful children ranging from 21 to 5 years old. I’ve got a loving wife. I thank God for the speedy recovery of the vehicle and emergency management getting there so quickly.”

TCA has presented Kirkland with a certificate, patch, lapel pin, and truck decals. His employer has also received a certificate acknowledging their driver 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.

The program is made possible by Presenting Sponsor, EpicVue, and Supporting Sponsor, DriverFacts.