Adam Phillips of Portage, Ind., a professional truck driver for Ruan Transportation Management Systems of Des Moines, Iowa, has been named a Highway Angel by the Truckload Carriers Association. Phillips is being recognized for risking his own life to pull an injured man from a flaming car.
On March 21, 2013, at about 2:10 a.m., Phillips was running his normal overnight shift hauling milk. As he drove southbound along I-65 in Johnson County, Ind., traffic suddenly came to a screeching halt.
In the bitter cold, a man had lost control of his car, which veered off the right side of the road, went airborne, and jumped the guardrail before hitting the side of the bridge at the County Road 600 overpass and bursting into flames. Trapped inside, the man was jammed up against the dashboard and screaming.
A truck driver who saw the crash used his CB radio to contact other drivers to see if anyone had a fire extinguisher. Phillips grabbed his and went to the scene, where he saw the car’s engine on fire. He attempted to put out the flames, but they only grew bigger. Bystanders gave him several extinguishers to use, but they were no match for the fire, which had now moved to the inside of the car.
Phillips knew it was imperative to get the man out of the vehicle quickly, so he tried to crawl in through the passenger side. Blinded by smoke, he moved to the driver’s side. With the dashboard on fire and the flames working their way toward the man, he desperately tried every knob and lever, but the seat would not budge. Part of the dashboard began melting into the man’s knee. Finally, another person came with a crowbar, and together they broke the bolts in the seat to release the pinned driver.
While others took the young man to safety, Phillips did a quick check for other passengers in the car, and then—just as he took a few steps away—the car became fully engulfed in flames that shot up higher than the top of the overpass.
As his final act of kindness, since the victim was injured and wearing only a t-shirt and shorts in the extreme cold, Phillips gave him the coat off his back. “He went out of the oven and into the ice box, literally,” said Phillips, describing the incident. “Most people’s freezers don’t get that cold.”
The motorist later expressed his gratitude to a local television station and met with Phillips to return his jacket and thank him in person. Ruan Transportation also recognized Phillips by presenting him with the Ruan Gold R Award, the company’s highest and most distinguished team member honor.
When asked about what happened that morning, Phillips is modest about his involvement. “He needed help… I could hear him screaming. There was nothing else I can imagine doing at that time,” he said.
For his selfless actions, Phillips has been presented with a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch. Ruan Transportation Management Systems also received a certificate acknowledging that one of its drivers is a Highway Angel.
TCA's Highway Angel program is sponsored by Internet Truckstop. 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. TCA has received letters and e-mails from people across North America nominating truck drivers for the program.