Knight of the road: Wadena trucker saves fellow driver in Tennessee
Chad Dickey is no ordinary trucker. Before he was part of Tony’s Transfer in Wadena, he was a defense contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq. Before that, he was a Green Beret, with over 20 years’ worth of military experience. His career highlights include working as an analyst to help take down Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in the 1980s.
He said it was his military training that helped him save a man from bleeding out – not in the jungles of South America or the Middle Eastern desert, but near a lonely stretch of freeway late one night last May in Tennessee.
Dickey was traveling south of Nashville on I-24 when he ran over what he recognized was the fuel tank of a semi-truck. After he pulled over to check his tires, a couple who had also pulled over alerted him to an accident involving a semi that had taken place previously. Dickey was confused at first because he hadn’t seen the rest of the aforementioned semi that supposedly had been part of the accident. After finding a destroyed guard rail near a small river running close to the road, however, he discovered the awful truth.
“I followed the guard rail, and I looked down to where the river was,” Dickey remembered. “The truck had literally flew over the river and impacted on the far bank.”
After crossing the bridge to the other side of the river to investigate, Dickey found the wreckage of the semi with its cargo, cases of laundry detergent, scattered around everywhere. The driver, Lewis Boyd, had lost control of his rig after it blew a tire. Now, he was struggling to get free from what was left of the truck’s cab.
“When I first saw him, I couldn’t believe there was somebody living because it was so bad,” Dickey said.
Dickey immediately began performing first aid on Boyd. The trapped driver’s seatbelt was so tight against his chest that when Dickey cut it loose later it cracked like a whip on the recoil.
Boyd didn’t look good. He had suffered serious fractures in his facial bones, broken ribs and lacerations all over his body. It wasn’t until Dickey cleared away more boxes of laundry detergent that he discovered the most dangerous injury, however. Boyd’s femoral artery had been cut open. He had to act fast.
By that point, police and state troopers had shown up. Desperate for something to use as a tourniquet, one of the state troopers took off the shirt he was wearing, which Dickey then tied around Boyd’s thigh to slow the bleeding. Boyd remembers Dickey physically holding the tourniquet in place and comforting him until EMTs took over and he was airlifted out.
“Every time he’d lose his grip, he’d say ‘Oh Lord, I’m losing grip, I’m getting weak’ and he would twist it, tighten it up more,” Boyd recalled. “The whole time I was about to drift in and out, he was just talking to me, keeping me awake, asking me about my kids, my wife, what happened, where I was coming from, where I was going, what’s my name, the company, everything. He was on point with everything.”
Dickey then helped the EMTs safely remove Boyd from the cab and onto a backboard. Only by forming a human chain up the hill and handing Boyd off from person to person were they able to get him from the wrecked semi into the helicopter.
After he reached the hospital, Boyd underwent emergency surgery on his severed artery. He had lost eight units of blood, and had to be resuscitated. It took a day to stabilize him.
After about a month, he left the hospital, but has battled to recover ever since. A minor brain injury forced Boyd to go to speech therapy for some time, and it was only recently that he began walking without the need for a cane. However, he’s alive, and Boyd credits God with sending him someone in the moment of the accident who not only found him in time, but had medical training as well.
“He’s an angel,” Boyd said of Dickey. “He saved my life. There’s no way around it. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here today.”
In recognition of his actions last May, Dickey has been selected as a finalist for the Goodyear Highway Hero Award. He will find out March 21 if he has been chosen from other finalist truckers around the nation who have displayed extraordinary heroism on the road.
Dickey shrugged off the idea that he was a hero, however.
“I think most anybody would have done the same thing I did,” he said.