Two Air Force master sergeants from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage went from hunters far north of the Arctic Circle to heroes when they rescued a trucker whose rig crashed. Sergeants David Barber and Morgan Cabaniss, from 673 Security Forces Squadron, were driving the Dalton Highway enroute to a caribou hunt, when they noticed a truck in distress.
From the United States Air Force:
“There was a turn in the road ahead of him, but he was jackknifed and slid right over the edge of the road and hit a snow bank. The truck came to rest with the cab in the snow bank and the back tires of the trailer on the road,” Barber said. “But he was right at the edge of about a 600-foot drop.
“That snow was the only thing between him and the drop.”
Barber stopped their vehicle about 80 yards from the wrecked semi, concerned they might join the driver in a long skid down the icy, treacherous road.
While Barber quickly began putting on heavy winter gear that had been too bulky to drive with, Cabaniss sprang into action – running toward the accident.
“I just did it; just went,” Cabaniss said. “I didn’t really think about it. And when I got to the edge of the road and looked down the embankment, I saw the door of the cab propped open. The trucker was wedged between the door and the side of his vehicle.”
Barber said his friend’s next words made the danger clear.
“We’ve gotta get him out of here – the truck may go down!” Cabaniss shouted.
So Cabaniss went over the edge of the road and found himself in waist-deep snow without even hitting a solid surface below. He half-swam his way to the cab and helped the dazed and injured trucker out.
Unfortunately, the trucker had not been fully geared up against the elements while driving, and the violent impact had tossed all the gear around the damaged cab.
“He was freaking out. He only had jeans and a T-shirt on, and had managed to grab a boot and a tennis shoe when he came out of the cab,” Cabaniss said. “And he appeared shocked … he kind of froze up on me.” …
Barber said the pair then drove about 10 miles back down the road, where they’d noticed a highway maintenance station with a pay phone.
Cell phone service was non-existent in the remote area.
The trucker managed to dial a few numbers and they put out some calls on a citizen’s band radio, but no one answered in either case.
About 35 minutes later, a Department of Transportation safety official finally came by the station and picked up the driver.
I think we’ve all seen vehicles broken down on the side of the road and kept driving. (Me too). But these guys sprung to action quickly and saved a man’s life. Well done, sergeants.