On March 22, 2012, at about 8:10 p.m., Cass was driving along Martin Luther King Blvd. in Portland when he witnessed a pickup truck rear-end a 53-foot tractor trailer. The pickup became wedged up to its windshield under the truck.
Cass immediately called 911, turned on his 4-ways and placed his vehicle 50 yards behind the scene to warn oncoming traffic. He approached the pickup and found the bloody and disoriented driver still alive, wearing his seatbelt and - unbelievably - talking on his cell phone. Cass told him to remain still and wait for help to arrive.
He then checked on the driver of the big rig and found her to be okay, but also somewhat disoriented. Because Cass is a driver development instructor, he knew that her truck would be equipped with reflective triangles. He was able to locate the triangles and put them together. Holding them in front of his chest to reflect his own body so no one would hit him, he placed the triangles an appropriate distance from the wreck. Cass knew that the triangles were an important tool for warning oncoming traffic, which would be coming toward the wreck in the dark at 55 mph.
Returning to the pickup truck, he saw smoke billowing from beneath it. Fearing a possible fire, he smashed the window and pulled the driver out, still on the phone. He got the man to sit in a safe place nearby. He rushed back to the big rig driver, got her out of her vehicle and obtained her fire extinguisher. Meanwhile, the pickup driver had left the scene. Still in shock, he had begun running toward oncoming traffic. Cass again got him to safety and started applying bandages to the bleeding until help arrived. The entire incident occurred during a 20-minute period before emergency responders showed up, and throughout the ordeal, no other motorists stopped to help Cass.
Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. A fire did not erupt, and paramedics were able to take care of the injured victims. The female truck driver did not need hospitalization and regained her composure. Cass helped her check out her truck, and they determined her vehicle was drivable to her destination, which was only a few miles away.
"I'm willing to help anyone and everyone when I can," says Cass, who has spent 24 years in the U.S. Coast Guard and is used to keeping calm and acting quickly in stressful situations. "I'm a people person, which is why I enjoy training new drivers and helping them accomplish whatever they set out to do. When one of my students gets a CDL, it makes me feel good. I know that I did my job properly."
For his efforts that day, Cass has received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch. FedEx Freight also received a certificate acknowledging that one of its drivers is a Highway Angel.
In addition, Cass has been approved for a FedEx 2012 Humanitarian Award, which will be presented to him later this year.
Since its inception in August 1997, the Highway Angels program has recognized hundreds of drivers for the 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.
To learn more about the program or to nominate a driver, go to www.truckload.org/highway-angel