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Professional Truck Drivers Earn Highway Angel Wings Battling a Motor Home Fire on an Extremely Hot Day
9/12/2014

It was just another day for Mark Olsen and Brad Wenneberg – until they found themselves braving intense heat and flames to help total strangers

Alexandria, Virginia:

Photo:  Mark OlsenPhoto:  Brad WennebergThe Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) is proud to announce that it is recognizing its newest Highway Angels: Mark Olsen of Clinton, Utah, and Brad Wenneberg of Smithfield, Utah, professional truck drivers for L.W. Miller Transportation, Inc., of Logan, Utah. The men made a heroic attempt to help a couple whose recreational vehicle (RV) caught on fire and eventually burned to the ground.

On June 9, 2014, at about 4:30 p.m., Olsen and Wenneberg were following each other in their respective tractor trailers, driving southbound on I-15, two miles from the border of Nevada and Arizona. It was well over 100 degrees. Olsen was in the lead. As he passed a motor home on the side of the road, he could see smoke billowing out of the engine. He did not know it at the time, but the RV had just been purchased by a retiree and his wife, who had sold their traditional home and were now on their first trip, with nearly all of their material possessions inside.

Olsen used the CB radio to alert Wenneberg that the RV was on fire. Both drivers came to a stop on the shoulder, grabbed their fire extinguishers, and started spraying the flames. When the contents of both extinguishers were used up, they attempted to flag down other vehicles that might have extinguishers on board, but were unsuccessful. The flames continued to grow. As they intensified and started moving into the interior of the vehicle, the wife became hysterical. No one could calm her down, so Wenneberg left her in the care of two other motorists who had just pulled up to the scene.

Meanwhile, Olsen and Wenneberg worked with the husband to release a pickup truck that was being pulled behind the RV. They pushed it a good distance away. Soon, the motor home’s tires started exploding. Due to the instability of the situation, Olsen and Wenneberg thought it best to stop traffic from proceeding past, including one impatient motorist who tried to squeeze through anyway. Just as Wenneberg stopped him, the propane tank on the RV caught fire and released an enormous ball of flames, which shot across the road, catching the median on fire. Had the impatient motorist been allowed to go forward, he and his vehicle would have been in immediate danger.

The motor home, unfortunately, burned all the way to its frame. The couple lost everything, including their credit cards, money, and cell phones, but at least still had the pickup truck that had been taken to safety. After the Highway Patrol arrived and took over, and before leaving the scene, Olsen and Wenneberg checked on the condition of the wife and assured her that her husband was okay. They also pooled their money together and offered the victims all the cash they had – about $80 – so they could at least get a hotel room. The couple refused the money, and later wrote a grateful e-mail to L.W. Miller Transportation calling Olsen and Wenneberg “true American heroes.” They said they will never forget what these two Good Samaritans did for them.

When Olsen was asked why he stopped to help that afternoon, he said, “That’s my nature. It was pretty scary, but whether driving a truck or driving a car, I will stop and help someone if they need it. We did what we could for [the couple]… at least we managed to save their pickup. That’s something.”

Wenneberg recalled the drama of the incident. “We pushed [the pickup] uphill in 100-degree heat with flames all around us, burning us,” he said. “And when the propane tank blew, it shot the biggest flame I’ve ever seen come out of an RV. It went clear across the median and caught it on fire. The whole vehicle burned to the ground. I felt so bad for [the couple].”

Both Olsen and Wenneberg are seasoned driving professionals, each with 25 years in the business. Their company thinks highly of them.

“We are very impressed with the consideration and quick thinking by our two professional drivers,” said the company representative who nominated Olsen and Wenneberg as Highway Angels. “Under pressure and extreme heat, they were able to think quickly and salvage a pickup that would have otherwise been lost in the fire. They also most likely saved the couple from harm and possibly other passing motorists.”

For their good deeds, TCA has presented Olsen and Wenneberg with certificates, patches, and lapel pins. L.W. Miller Transportation, Inc., also received a certificate acknowledging that two of its drivers are Highway Angels.

Since the program’s inception in August 1997, hundreds of drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the unusual kindness, courtesy, and courage they have shown others while on the job.

To nominate a driver or learn more about the program and its honorees, visit the Highway Angel Web page at http://www.truckload.org/Highway-Angel or Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/tcanews. For additional information, contact TCA at (703) 838-1950 or angel@truckload.org.


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