Alexandria, Virginia

The Truckload Carriers Association has named Samuel Rojas, from Port Hueneme, California, a Highway Angel for pulling a driver from her burning minivan.

Rojas had just finished picking up a load and was heading south on U.S. 95 in Nevada on May 27. He was hungry, but wasn’t in the mood for microwave food. “I wanted actual food and to sit down and eat,” he says. He decided to hop on Highway 163 to take him into Kingman, Arizona. “It would only add a few miles,” he said. As he traveled up a steep incline at 35 mph, a minivan passed him. Rojas glanced over and was startled to see fire coming from beneath the minivan. “I laid on my air horn and city horn to get her attention,” shared Rojas. However, she didn’t respond. He called 911 and reported his location. “When I got to the top of the hill I saw the minivan was on the side of the road, completely in flames.” He immediately slowed. “As soon as I hit 10 mph, I dropped the truck into neutral and pulled the parking brake and jumped out.” Rojas ran over to the driver’s door. “She was struggling to get her dog,” he recalled. “It was so hot in there. I told her to leave the dog.” He got her out as the flames grew more intense and moved her to the steps of his truck away from the fire.

Now that the driver was safe, Rojas considered going back for the dog. “I asked her how much fuel was in the vehicle,” he said as he was worried about it exploding. “She said she had just filled it up. I apologized, but told her I couldn’t take that kind of risk for a dog. She said she understood. Then she began complaining about how hot she felt,” he recalled. “I could see she had been burned.” By now, another driver had stopped to help. “I grabbed towels and a thin blanket from my truck and we wet them down with bottled water to cool her down,” said Rojas. He knew they couldn’t give her anything to drink. “With the temperature of her body, she would go into shock.” Rojas estimated she was burned over 30 percent of her body. As Rojas applied the bandages he looked back to see that the flames from the minivan had set off a brush fire. Thankfully, two other vehicles pulled over and three men ran over with shovels. Rojas instructed them to dig a trench and get rid of anything that could burn. He grabbed a fire extinguisher from his truck and depleted it before returning to the injured driver. “She asked me to call her husband,” added Rojas. “They were able to talk and say, ‘I love you.’” Rojas did what he could to comfort the woman, whom he estimated to be in her early 60s, until an ambulance and firefighters arrived.

Rojas has kept in touch with the woman’s husband. “She was in the hospital for a couple weeks,” shared Rojas. “She’ll have two or three months of physical therapy and then she’ll be fully recovered.”

For his willingness to assist, TCA has presented Rojas with a certificate, patch, lapel pin, and truck decals. His employer has also received a certificate acknowledging their driver as a Highway Angel.

Since the program’s inception in August 1997, nearly 1,300 professional truck drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the exemplary kindness, courtesy, and courage they have displayed while on the job.

The program is made possible by Presenting Sponsor, EpicVue, and Supporting Sponsors, DriverFacts and Drivers Legal Plan.