Alexandria, Virginia

Professional truck drivers Laurie Clifford of Prescott, Ontario and Craig Sutherland of Bracebridge, Ontario with Bison Transport of Winnipeg, Manitoba, has been named Highway Angels by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA). The team is being recognized for assisting numerous motorists after a crash and comforting an elderly woman in her final moments.

On August 22, Clifford and Sutherland were traveling westbound on Highway 17 in Ontario, Canada. Sutherland was leading with Clifford behind him, and the two were talking on the radio about the run ahead. Just then, they noticed a motorist a few cars ahead of them swerve into oncoming traffic, going approximately 60 miles an hour, hitting a minivan head on. Debris flying down both sides of the freeway.

Sutherland began yelling, “Crash in front of me! Crash in front of me!” and the driver team quickly sprung into action. Hastily, Sutherland went to the vehicle that had been traveling westbound in front of them and opened the passenger door but the female motorist was trapped. Sutherland did his best to keep her calm and alert. The injured female told him that she had been reaching for a water bottle on the floorboard when she realized she was swerving and that she pulled the steering wheel quickly trying to correct the car back into her lane, but she said she pulled too hard and the next thing she knew she was in the wrong lane.

Meanwhile, Clifford quickly ran to assist the occupants in the eastbound vehicle; three passengers were inside the car which had fallen down a steep incline. Despite the treacherous climb, Clifford managed to help the driver and front passenger out and to a safe spot. He then maneuvered back to retrieve an elderly woman who was in the backseat. Her injuries were more serious than the others, but she was able to sit on the side of the road and talk with Clifford. A passing motorist rushed to the group of motorists with a comforter and helped to lay the elderly woman down. At this point there were now two other people holding her up, kneeling down behind her.

It took nearly an hour for the police and emergency personnel to arrive on the scene, with the ambulance arriving 20 minutes later. Sadly, once paramedics arrived, the injured elderly woman was passing away but with Clifford by her side. The crew laid her down and attempted CPR, but it was too late.

“It was really hard on me, for quite some time,” recalled Clifford. “I go by that same spot every week and can still see that lady laying there. It was terrible. I’ve been driving for over 50 years and have seen a lot. You try to do what you can do, and that just comes naturally. But afterward…that’s when it hits you, what did I just do?”

Sutherland stayed with the other injured motorist until emergency personnel could cut her loose from the car. “That day it didn’t work out for everyone, but thankfully we were there to help the others and comfort the woman who passed so she wasn’t scared or alone,” he said.

The Bison Transport drivers were on the scene for eight hours that day.

For their willingness to assist, TCA has presented both Clifford and Sutherland a certificate, patch, lapel pin, and truck decals. Bison Transport also received a certificate acknowledging their drivers as Highway Angels.

TCA’s Highway Angel program is generously sponsored by EpicVue, the leading provider of premium in-cab satellite TV services packaged exclusively for the trucking industry.