What does a big rig driver, a registered nurse, a flat of ice cream, an off-duty paramedic team, and a horse trailer have in common? K&J driver Bob Hoffman has been trucking for 19 years, but he has never seen anything quite like this.
Hoffman was running an empty trailer down to Sioux City and was about 20 miles South of Sioux Falls on I-29. The road was filled with quite a bit of traffic when Hoffman saw the car in front of him begin to drive erratically. Hoffman said, “He started getting his right front wheel off on the right shoulder, then he would pull back onto the road suddenly. He did this several times. I’ve seen a lot of impaired drivers who are dozing off but this one appeared to be different.”
After several miles of being all over the road and on both shoulders, Hoffman recalls that the driver went into the left lane, swerved back to the right and then went off the right shoulder. This time the driver tagged a reflector post and then jerked the wheel to get back on the road once again. Hoffman watched in horror, sure the driver was going to roll his car. Not knowing if the driver was drunk or somehow impaired, Hoffman put on his emergency blinkers so traffic behind him would slow down and know not to pass. Thankfully the traffic behind Hoffman stayed back while the erratic driver continued to swerve. Hoffman also hoped his flashers would encourage the driver to pull over.
A few miles down the road the driver veered onto the left shoulder, back on the road, and then off the right shoulder again. But this time, when the driver jerked the wheel to right himself, he did a complete 360, at one point facing Hoffman's truck, and then flew off the right shoulder at an angle, appearing to be headed straight for a huge utility pole. Hoffman quickly pulled over and jumped out to offer help as he saw the car come to a stop.
Since traffic was backed up behind Hoffman, a lot of other people saw the commotion and also stopped. Walking toward the vehicle, Hoffman dialed 911 and gave them the mile marker. As he neared the vehicle, Hoffman realized that miraculously the driver had missed the huge utility pole. His vehicle had been stopped by a barbed wire fence, which was also preventing the driver’s side door from opening. By some miracle, a registered nurse was in the stopped traffic behind Hoffman. She quickly parked her car and ran up to the vehicle just before Hoffman arrived. She determined that the driver was unresponsive and appeared to be in a diabetic coma. She yelled out to the gathered vehicles, “Does someone have something sweet? We need sugar in this guy!”
Hoffman then saw two men run up to the car carrying a huge 80 lb bag between them. They were off-duty paramedics from Kansas with their supply bag.
They conferred with the nurse and had Hoffman begin looking for any signs of medication, doctor’s orders, or medical syringes in the vehicle or trunk. While exploring the trunk, Hoffman got a big surprise. A driver of a horse trailer that had also stopped to help, along with his wife, had just noticed there was a little girl in the backseat of the car, quiet as could be in her car seat. She appeared to be about 3-years-old.
Hoffman and the driver of the horse trailer asked the girl if she wanted to get out of the vehicle and she did. Once she was out of the vehicle, they asked her if she wanted to see some horses, thinking that it would be good to get her away from the scene. She said she did, so the man and his wife stayed with her and distracted her with the horses.
The makeshift medical team was still trying to rouse the driver when a man came running from his car carrying a flat of those small single serve ice creams. He generously said, “Just take all of them.” The nurse tried unsuccessfully to get the diabetic man to take the ice cream, but it was too difficult to get him to swallow. They needed a liquid.
The paramedics said they thought they had sugar water in their supplies somewhere. They quickly rummaged through their supplies until they found the bag of sugar water. Thankfully, they were able to tilt the driver’s head back and give him small sips, even though he was unresponsive.
It wasn’t long before the driver started to respond and shake his head to answer questions. He was still very out of it, but he could answer. They asked if he had any medications. He said no. Any friends nearby? No. In looking at his cell phone the first number on it was his wife, so one of the paramedics called her. She was only about 20 miles away at the Tea, SD exit. He was supposed to pick her up there, but in his disorientation he had driven right past it.
Because of all these good Samaritans, the driver of the vehicle was responsive, and his granddaughter was safe before the state trooper, county patrol, and ambulance even arrived. Hoffman spoke with law enforcement and shared what had happened while the emergency medical team took over.
This story probably sounds too crazy to be true, but it proves the power of people. People can help in life-threatening situations by providing any sort of aid, comforting others, and offering skilled knowledge. This man’s life was saved because of a few quick-thinking individuals. And first on that list is our own Bob Hoffman. Without Bob’s careful driving and instinct to turn on his emergency lights to prevent a horrific accident, the situation could have been much worse. He was able to help keep the driver and his sweet granddaughter safe.
Truck drivers don’t often get the appreciation they deserve for all they do to keep our country running. These road warriors do more than just ship goods across the country, they are good citizens and good Samaritans. At K&J, we are proud to call Bob Hoffman one of our own.