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Truck driver honored for saving pregnant woman from burning car

Victim lost control on wet highway

Photo: JLE Industries, TCA

The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) has named Harvell “Keith” Martin, from Tallapoosa, Georgia, a Highway Angel for rushing to save a woman trapped in her burning car.

On a cold, rainy day in December 2019, Martin was driving his truck on Interstate 40 near Hickory, North Carolina. His 18-year-old son, John, was along for the ride. As they pulled out of a rest area, they waited for a car to pass. A short while later, they watched the same vehicle lose control on the slick road. The car spun out, then ran off the road into a ravine.

Martin pulled over as quickly as he could, and he and his son jumped out. They saw what looked like smoke or steam coming from the car, so Martin grabbed a fire extinguisher and he and his son ran down the embankment.

The driver’s side of the car was slammed against a tree. A moment later, the car caught on fire. Another truck stopped, bringing a second fire extinguisher, but the truckers could not douse the flames.

The crash victim, a pregnant woman in her late 20s, was conscious. But she was trapped in the car and one leg was pinned.

“My son wanted to go in, but I wouldn’t let him,” Martin said.

Harvell “Keith” Martin, JLE Industries driver

Martin was able to enter the car and cut the woman out of her seatbelt. He then managed to pull her out of the passenger side.

“It was so hot in there,” he said. The other truck driver helped Martin and his son carry the woman a safe distance from the burning vehicle.

When paramedics arrived, they checked Martin. He sustained burns to his arm and the back of his head.

“Like a bad sunburn with blisters,” he recalled. Someone later found his melted headset at the scene. His son, who wasn’t injured, has been riding with his dad quite a bit.

“He wants to drive a truck so badly,” Martin shared.

Martin drives for JLE Industries and has been a professional trucker since 1996, driving over-the-road since 2010.

“It’s a safe job if you watch what you’re doing and you’re careful,” he said. “But last month we saw two people die in car accidents in a week.”

For his willingness to help the crash victim, TCA presented Martin with a certificate, patch, lapel pin and truck decals. JLE Industries also received a certificate acknowledging the company’s driver as a Highway Angel.

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 on the job. EpicVue sponsors TCA’s Highway Angel program.

Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.