Alexandria, Virginia

David Ragland, a professional truck driver with Kelle’s Transport Service of West Valley City, Utah, has been named a Highway Angel by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA). Ragland, who resides in Cotopaxi, Colorado, is being recognized for his role in helping two young children survive a horrific accident.

On August 11, 2013, in the late afternoon, Ragland was driving westbound on I-40 near Jackson, Tennessee. Suddenly, he saw an eastbound car swerve off the road and veer into the tree line on the south side of the interstate. Stopping immediately, he crossed the interstate to discover that the car was folded in half and upside down, smoke was pouring out of the engine and firewall, and there were cries and screams coming from inside the wreckage.

Ragland looked briefly into the mangled car to see what could be done to help. He knew from the crying that at least one person was alive, but he could not see past the adults in the front seat, who appeared not to have survived. The car was smoldering, and soon visible flames began to appear.

Several other motorists had stopped by now, so Ragland focused his attention on the toxic smell of burning wires as the flames began to build. He decided to go back to his truck and get his fire extinguisher. When he returned, he began to spray the flames, which would intensify and then subside repeatedly.

Meanwhile, another man began using a pocket knife to cut a path through the interior of the car toward the back seat, where the crying seemed loudest. As he was cutting and removing debris, Ragland’s small extinguisher ran out. Fortunately, a police trooper pulled onto the scene at that moment, so Ragland was able to get the trooper’s extinguisher and use it to continue smothering flames.

Soon the other man succeeded in getting deeper into the car. He yelled that he had found someone alive. Ragland ran to his side and held the tree branches clear to allow him more room to maneuver. The man was able to pull a baby out (still strapped to his car seat) and pass him to Ragland, who in turn carried him to a bystander standing a safe distance away from the wreck. Eventually, the fire and rescue personnel took over, but during the chaos, the man who had cut the child out of the wreckage had slipped away quietly. Ragland gave a statement to the police and was thrilled to learn that a second child had survived and had been extracted by the first responders, although, tragically, both parents and an 8-year-old half-sister had perished.

The story continues, however. Ragland kept quiet about what happened until about a year later, when his company offered a $100 prize for a Good Samaritan contest. When his story was chosen as the winner, Ragland decided not only to donate the money to the surviving children, but also to add to it with money from his own pocket. Before long, Kelle’s Transport office staff and management began to make donations – until the amount grew to $5,000 ($2,500 per child). The police then conducted a press conference through which the checks were presented and Ragland was able to meet one of the two surviving children, an infant at the time of the accident. (The other hero who had freed the baby from inside the wreckage that day apparently could not be located.)

Ragland, a veteran of the U.S. Army who has been a professional truck driver for close to three years, said that helping the children escape the wreckage and suppressing the fire was “probably the most important thing I’ve ever done that affected another person.”

He added: “People talk about heroes, but we have a responsibility to stop. It’s not a choice. The crash happened right in front of me. I just wish we could have done more.”

For his valiant efforts, TCA has presented Ragland with a certificate, patch, lapel pin, and truck decal. Kelle’s Transport Service 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 unusual kindness, courtesy, and courage they have shown others while on the job.