TCA SALUTES HIGHWAY ANGEL TROY WOODS, OF PAYETTE, IDAHO
The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) recently recognized Troy Woods, of Payette, Idaho, as a Highway Angel for his selfless actions in the dramatic rescue of a woman trapped in her vehicle under water.
On an evening in mid-October, Woods, a driver for May Trucking Company, found himself driving through a thunderstorm on Interstate 49 near Alexandria, Louisiana. Heavy rains had caused the roadway to flood, and soon traffic slowed to a crawl. Woods noticed several people had stopped and stepped out of their vehicles, and that’s when he realized accidents had occurred on both sides of the interstate. He parked his rig and went to investigate.
“I looked to see what people were staring at and I could see the trunk of a car about 150 feet out from the roadway. The rest of the vehicle was submerged under water,” Woods said. About a foot of water had washed over the roadway, apparently causing the vehicle to hydroplane and veer into a flooded drainage ditch before floating downstream and being pinned against a concrete culvert.
“I didn’t know if anyone was in the vehicle, so my biggest concern was due to the fact that only the back windshield and trunk were sticking out of the water,” Woods said. “If there was anyone in that car, the only air they had was going to be what was in the car.”
Woods hollered to the bystanders that they needed to help, but no one was willing to venture into the water. “I was thinking, somebody needs to do something,” Woods said, so he waded out towards the vehicle. Someone tossed him a rope, which he tied around his chest while people on shore held the other end. The further he ventured out, the stronger the current got. “Out where the car was, it was real strong,” said Woods, who considers himself an average swimmer. “But I wasn’t thinking about the current,” he said. “All I was thinking about was somebody needed help.”
When he reached the car, he heard a woman screaming. Realizing he needed to move quickly, Woods ran back to his truck, grabbed a small sledge hammer, and returned to smash the vehicle’s side window located above water so the woman could get air. At that point, others on shore waded out to join him, including paramedics who had since responded to the call. “The current was moving the car a bit, so I was concerned the current would grab it and continue to drag it downstream,” he said. “I took the rope around my chest and tied it to the axle of the car. Another guy tied the other end to his pickup truck.”
Woods then passed a rope through the back passenger window to the woman, who was frantic and still screaming. She managed to tie it around her chest, and while several men held onto the rope, Woods and a few others made a human chain by grabbing each other’s belts.
“She was afraid to come out of the window, so I told her to take deep breaths and put her head under water so we could pull her out,” Woods said. “As soon as I pulled her halfway out the window, the current grabbed her and sucked her right out of the car.”
Knowing the woman was being pulled by the current, Woods did “the first thing that came to mind.” He dove under water and grabbed her waist. Together, the men forming the human chain pulled her safely up out of the water. Woods then noticed the rope she had supposedly tied around her waist floating away behind them.
Not until he had left the scene and driven to the next truck stop did the severity of the situation hit Woods. “I was about 20 miles down the road when I realized, you know what, this is Louisiana, and there was a lot more out there than just the current that could have pulled me under,” he said, referring to snakes and alligators that are known to frequent waters in the southern U.S. Still, that didn’t change Woods’ reaction. “I knew whoever was in the car needed me. I felt like I did what needed to be done. There was no way I was going to walk off and watch that car sink.”
Woods received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate, and patch for his efforts, and his employer, May Trucking Co., also received a certificate for acknowledging a Highway Angel in their midst.
Since the program’s inception in August 1997, hundreds of drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the exemplary kindness, courtesy, and courage they have displayed while on the job.