Ruan professional driver Adam Phillips was running his normal overnight shift on March 21 hauling milk in Johnson County, Indiana. But when traffic came to a sudden halt at around 2:10 a.m., his trip became anything but normal. A driver was trapped inside a burning vehicle nearby, and Phillips played a critical role in rescuing him. For his heroic efforts, Phillips was named a Highway Angel by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA).
After coming to a halt early that morning, Phillips saw that people were out of their cars and trying to find a fire extinguisher. That’s when Phillips saw a burning car off the road near an overpass.
“I grabbed my fire extinguisher and just started running,” Phillips said. “Then I heard someone screaming.”
As Phillips approached the burning car, he saw that the driver was pinned against the dashboard. He quickly started to extinguish the fire, which was contained in the engine area. Because the fuel rails were still active, the fire wouldn’t burn out, even though bystanders continued to hand him four additional fire extinguishers. Then the fire traveled to the inside of the car. Phillips acted quickly to try to remove the driver from the car.
“I tried to pull every lever to move the seat back from the dashboard, but it wouldn’t budge. And I could hardly see through the smoke,” Phillips said. “Then someone approached the car with a pry bar.”
Together, they used the pry bar to break the bolts in the chair and release the pinned driver. The driver fell into the passenger seat, so Phillips reached into the car from the driver’s side and pulled him out. Other good Samaritans walked the driver to safety while Phillips checked the car to make sure no one else was trapped.
“No one else was in the car, so I started walking away,” Phillips said. “When I was about five steps from the car, I felt a surge of heat against my back as the whole car became engulfed in flames.”
As they waited for emergency personnel to arrive, Phillips offered the shivering driver, Anthony Ingle, his Ruan jacket. Ingle suffered third-degree burns on his right leg—but was lucky to be alive. He lost control of his vehicle on I-65 South and veered of the right side of the road, then went airborne and jumped a guardrail before crashing near an overpass.
Ingle told Indiana Channel Fox 59 he was thankful to be alive.
“I would just like to say how grateful I am that they did stop and try to help me get out because a second later, I probably wouldn’t be here. I would probably be burnt to a crisp right now,” Ingle told Fox 59.
A few days after the accident, Ingle had an opportunity to thank Phillips face-to-face—and return his jacket—when Phillips visited him the burn unit a Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.
Phillips received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch from TCA. He also earned a Gold R Award from Ruan, the company's highest team member honor.
Highway Angel recognition is awarded for a driver's "good deeds," ranging from simple acts of kindness, such as fixing a flat tire, to heroic life-saving efforts, such as pulling someone from a burning vehicle and administering CPR.