On July 16, Harte was traveling on I-80 just east of Wamsutter, Wyo., when he saw a cloud of dust in the distance. As he approached the area, he saw that a pickup truck (later estimated to be going 75-80 mph) had pushed a minivan off the road and then hit a car, pushing it into the median.
Since bystanders were already helping the car victims, Harte turned his attention to the minivan, which was crumpled. A man and a woman holding a 6-month-old baby were frantically trying to get something out of the vehicle. Harte grabbed a first aid kit and medical gloves and went to help, finding that three children were still trapped inside. The third row seat had been pushed up to the second row seat, which was in turn pushed up to the front row seat where the parents had been.
Harte, who is a first responder and a former paramedic and EMT, heard a bystander using her cell phone to dial 911. He asked to speak to the operator and described the severity of the situation based on his medical expertise. He then extracted the most accessible child, a 5-year-old boy who was in the second row. He directed some of the bystanders to lay him on the ground, following basic spinal injury precautions.
Next, as emergency personnel began to arrive and assist, he asked the four strongest bystanders to help him reach the two girls trapped in the third row seats. At Harte's suggestion, the men opened the minivan's back hatch for better accessibility, allowing Harte to perform first aid on one of the girls. After someone removed a second row seat, he was able to slide her out.
By then, an off-duty EMT showed up. While the EMT followed spinal injury precautions, Harte held the child's body and car seat. Firefighters pulled apart seats and cut seatbelts until there was enough space to extract the child.
"I have been a firefighter/first responder since 1989, including four years as an EMT, and what I encountered that day was the worst motor vehicle accident I've ever seen," said Harte, noting that the injuries ranged from a broken pelvis, to broken legs, hips, arms and jaws, to fractured skulls and internal bleeding. He noted that only two ambulances were available to transport the eight victims of both the car and the minivan, so he spent a lot of time attending to the injuries while waiting for the ambulances to make return trips.
For his efforts that day, Harte has received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate, and patch. Sammons Trucking also received a certificate acknowledging that one of its drivers is a Highway Angel.
To learn more about the Highway Angel program or to nominate a driver, go to www.truckload.org/highway-angel.