Alexandria, Virginia

Andrew Burkhart, a professional truck driver for FFE Transportation Services of Lancaster, Texas, has been named a Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) Highway Angel for helping two children who lost most of their family in a horrific accident.

At 5:15 a.m. Central time on March 26, 2010, it was still dark and quite cold as Burkhart traveled toward his home in Michigan. He was driving northbound on I-65, near mile marker 63 in Munfordville, Kentucky, when a van built to hold 15 people passed him. Moments later, he saw a tractor-trailer heading southbound cross the median and slam head-on into the van before striking a cliff and bursting into flames.

Burkhart could barely believe his eyes as he saw at least one body fall out of the van. As he dialed 911, he knew that the collision had been very, very bad. It took all of his strength to stay calm as he approached the grisly scene, searching through the carnage for survivors. Two young boys, held in place by car seats, were still alive. Aside from a bloody nose on one of them, they appeared unharmed.

Initially, two other people had stopped along with Burkhart, but by now both had left the scene. Burkhart found himself alone in the cold with two terrified kids. They were in complete darkness except for the bright flames from the burning truck. He brought the children to his own truck, keeping them warm for more than half an hour until authorities arrived.

The police determined that eleven people died that day: the driver of the tractor-trailer and ten occupants of the van, most of whom were members of a Mennonite family on their way to a wedding. They had only been on the road for a few minutes.

Needless to say, the incident left Burkhart badly shaken. He is glad he and his family were invited to attend the victims’ memorial service, where he was able to answer questions for grieving family and friends. “It’s been really hard [on me], but it’s something you have to do,” he said.

For the courage he showed that day, Burkhart has received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate, and patch. FFE Transportation Services, Inc., also received a certificate acknowledging that one of its drivers is a Highway Angel.

Since the program’s inception in August 1997, hundreds of drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the exemplary kindness, courtesy, and courage they have displayed while on the job.