TT: Hello Stephen, we’ve just heard about your daring rescue this morning, Do you mind starting from the top and telling us what happened?
SL: Well, I had just swapped out driving with my trainee (Dasia Doby) at the Love’s in Darien Lake, Mississippi because she had gotten tired, and I preach as a trainer to know your limits. So, I had started driving and as I came around a curve I saw a blinker off in the distance. I figured he was on the shoulder, so I scooted over to the left lane to give them space and go around, you know, doing what we're supposed to do in case somebody is walking around the vehicle or anything like that. As I got closer, I saw that it was actually off into the woods. Then I saw the yellow glow and I was like, “Wait, is that truck on fire?” Just then I passed it and saw the flames. I already knew there was nobody around me, so I stepped on my brakes, pulled safely off the road, jumped out with my flashlight, and ran over there. As a former medic and firefighter, I didn’t hesitate.
Then I heard him yelling for help. He was pinned in the vehicle. That's when my fire training kicked in and I went into rescue mode. So, I ran over and did what I had to do to get him out of the vehicle before the flames got into the cab. I pulled him out on the driver's side window and then we pulled him further away from the flames a bit. By that time, four other people had stopped and they helped us get him up the hill and into the back of a squad car. Then I called his wife and his mom to let them know what happened. Later, I checked on him at the hospital to see how he was doing. He broke his femur but is going to be ok. He admitted that he was tired and fell asleep on his way back from Birmingham to Brandon to drop off his load. He knew he was tired before the accident.
You know, this is why I preach as a trainer to know your limits. Know when it’s time to pull over and stop because if I'd been five minutes later… It wouldn't have been life savings event. The police would have been calling his family and letting them know that he passed away in a burning vehicle. Know when it’s time to shut down because there's no load in this world that's worth my life or somebody else's life. You have to know when you can’t safely perform your duties. Being late is better than killing myself or killing somebody else. If I have got to take a hit for being late, I take a hit. Don't push yourself. I told my student Dasia after we left, “Let's use this as a life lesson.” To any future drivers, those coming into the industry, or even the regular driving public, know when it's time to stop, stop.
TT: You did an amazing thing sir. You should be proud of what you did, and we’re very proud to have you as part of the TOTAL family. That’s how you teach through example.
SL: Just tell everybody, I don't want praise. If you see somebody else on the side of the road or anything like that, you don't have to have professional training to pull over and call 911 or use your fire extinguisher or something. Maybe you can give them an extra 10-15 minutes until professional help shows up on the road. Giving somebody a chance to continue life instead of standing there and doing nothing about it and saying, ”Oh , well, better luck next time.” You know, that's what 90% of the drivers these days do. Like, “Oh well, not my truck not my problem.” Yet, what if that was you on the side of the road? What if that was one of your family members on the side of the road that was involved in an accident and somebody else could have done something to save their lives, but they just passed by saying, “Not truck, not my problem?”
TT: One thing that really struck me, when watching the videos that were first posted online, was just how quickly that the whole cab became engulfed in flames. When we first see you climb on the cab trying to help them out it looks like a fire extinguisher could possibly put the fire out. Then you ask Dasia to get a fire extinguisher, by the time she gets back the cab is engulfed. That couldn’t have taken her more than 30 seconds.
SL: People don’t realize how quickly things can happen and how quickly you have to operate to have a good end come out of a situation like that. Five minutes is all it took for that truck to be completely engulfed, he would have been gone.
TT: You may not like it, but I’ll say it again. The entire TOTAL team is proud of you.
SL: Like I said, I don't look for recognition. I just want to teach everybody, to know your body limits, know what you're getting into, and know what you could be risking when you decide to keep going.
TT: Well, sir, you're certainly teaching by example, both on and off the job so to speak. So again, well done.
SL: Thank you and drive safely everybody.
TT: Same to you Stephen.