Ice storm crash victim credits survival to truck driver’s actions

Garner Trucking tractor-trailer; inset photo of driver Eric Eaton.

A professional truck driver recently received an award for his driving skills that prevented a collision on an icy highway from becoming a fatal accident. The crash victim was convinced that the trucker’s safe driving saved her life.

“I truly believe you saved my life and I cannot write the words ‘Thank You’ enough times.” – Crash survivor to truck driver Eric Eaton

Eric Eaton, with Garner Trucking, Inc., was driving on US-422 near Twinsburg, Ohio during a winter storm on January 20, 2019. He was in the right lane and going well under the posted speed limit. As he looked in his side mirror he caught a glimpse of three vehicles quickly approaching on his left. He took his foot off the gas. As the first vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee, crept up next to the front of Eaton’s truck, it lost traction and began swerving.

Eric Eaton/Garner Trucking, Inc. (Photo credit: TCA)

“I started lightly tapping my brake,” Eaton told the Truck Carriers Association (TCA). “I didn’t want to hit my brakes too hard and create a bigger incident. I had a semi behind me. Next thing I know, the Jeep swerved all the way to the median. The Jeep caught it and turned the vehicle sideways, projecting it right back in front of me.”

Eaton had continued to slow his truck. “There was nothing I could do except brace for impact,” Eaton added. “My first thought was not to kill someone.” The Jeep struck Eaton’s truck, bounced off, and ended up in the median.

Eaton was finally able to safely stop and pull over about a quarter-mile down the road. “I turned on the flashers and started running back toward the Jeep,” Eaton said. “In my mind I thought I had killed someone. It [the Jeep] hit so hard and it went flying. The police were already on their way, and before I could get back to the Jeep, a police officer came and picked me up and took me back to my truck.”

The police officer told Eaton it was too dangerous for him to be out on the road. “But my major concern was whether there was a passenger in the Jeep, because the passenger side was crushed by the impact,” Eaton recalled. “Boy, I don’t know if they would’ve made it. I kept asking the officer if everyone was okay.” The officer radioed back to the scene and found out that the driver wasn’t critically injured and there was no passenger in the vehicle.

The young woman who was driving the Jeep sent a note to Eaton and Garner Trucking, thanking Garner for his quick thinking and safe driving. “Thank you, thank you, thank you for saving my life that day,” she wrote. “I believe that the speed you were going and how you maneuvered the truck saved my life. Other than Jesus Christ, I truly believe you saved my life and I cannot write the words ‘Thank You’ enough times.”

In recognition of his efforts that day, TCA has presented Eaton with a certificate, patch, lapel pin and truck decals. His employer, Garner Trucking, also received a certificate acknowledging its driver as a Highway Angel. Since the program’s inception in August 1997, more than 1,250 professional truck drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for their exemplary kindness, courtesy and courage while on the job. EpicVue sponsors TCA’s Highway Angel program.