Live Oak County (KIII News) — Being behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler during a thunderstorm is bound to add some stress to the job even for experienced drivers.
Mark Vela is no stranger to traumatic injuries; he was in a car accident in 2004 that left him with P.T.S.D. and part of his thigh being amputated.
When lightning struck Vela's truck, it caused his rig to be stuck in cruise control barreling down I-37.
Vela knew he was in for trouble.
"Live Oak County 911, the location of your emergency," a dispatcher said.
Vela has been driving 18-wheelers for nine years, and he is well-versed in the protocol for if you have a runaway rig.
"Do not panic. Do not slam on your breaks because you have to remember you have cargo. Your vehicle does not stop like any other plus the conditions," Vela said.
Vela stayed on the phone with the Live Oak Sheriff's dispatcher the entire time he was driving.
The dispatcher was able to get DPS and deputies to surround his truck and clear traffic. The dispatcher happened to have previously been a truck driver for a decade, but they were both still finding it hard to think of a solution and positive outcome.
"I know you want to get home to your family," the dispatcher said.
"I don't want to take anyone else's life," Vela said.
"I understand you don't want to take anybody out. You got to listen to me and remain calm, OK?" the dispatcher said.
Vela is familiar with I-37 and knew he would hit a curve in the road that could result in him flipping over, so he had to do something fast.
As soon as Vela hit a hill which slowed the truck down, he turned off the truck, losing power steering, and turned it back on and made a sharp turn.
"I overcorrected, corrected the over correct, came back the other side, and finally I just slammed them on and jackknifed and stopped on 37, and that was that," Vela said.
The sheriff of Live Oak County said he is proud of his dispatcher.
"The only information the officers had from the driver what's going through that dispatcher, so it's up to the dispatcher to be able to stay calm and relay what they can of what's going on," Larry Busby said.
Now that it's all over Vela got a chance to meet the woman that helped save his life.
The dispatcher said she never gets to meet the person on the other line, but this time she did, and she's glad it's a happy ending.
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