Alexandria, Virginia

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) recently recognized Danny Wallen, of Conover, Ohio, as a Highway Angel for risking his life to save a family involved in a critical automobile accident.

Wallen was traveling southbound on I-65 outside Nashville, Tennessee, when suddenly an SUV ahead of him swerved to avoid a car stalled in the traveling lane. Wallen then watched a second SUV traveling at about 70-75 mph strike the rear end of the automobile and send it spinning across the highway into the median where it burst into flames. Wallen braked, pulled to the right, and safely parked his rig. Then he grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran to the burning vehicle.

Immediately, Wallen and another motorist dragged the male driver from the vehicle, and then Wallen returned to assist the driver’s wife, who was in the passenger seat.

“I went back to the car and the [other motorist] had the woman out of the front passenger seat,” he recalled. “The woman was screaming ‘my baby is in the car.’”

When Wallen looked in the back seat, he found the couple’s teenage daughter trapped in the vehicle, yelling for help. He attempted to extinguish the flames and when that didn’t work, he grabbed the young woman’s right arm and tried to pull her out. “There was a strap around her,” Wallen said. “The flames were burning the back of her head and she was screaming.

Despite the threats to his own life, Wallen continued to try to free the girl until a police officer arrived and instructed him to get away from the car because “it was going to blow.” The officer informed him the girl had no pulse, and Wallen reluctantly moved away. Soon after the gas tank blew and the car was engulfed in flames. Wallen had to restrain the girl’s mother, as she kept trying to return to the burning car. As a result of his efforts, Wallen’s left arm was singed and he experienced minor burns, which were treated at the scene.

“Wallen’s life was placed in harm’s way the entire time he was at the vehicle when it was burning,” said Randy Meek, regional manager of safety and security at ABF Freight System, Inc. “Wallen’s heroic effort saved the life of Anthony Arnold. And his continued effort to free Lynda Arnold, the 17-year-old daughter, displayed his dedication and professionalism. His disregard for his personal safety was above the call for duty.”

Wallen received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate, and patch for his efforts, and his employer, ABF Freight System, Inc., also received a certificate for acknowledging a Highway Angel in their midst.

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.