A quick acting Coffs Harbour tow truck driver has been awarded the Australian Trucking Association’s highly coveted Bridgestone Bandag Highway Guardian Award - recognising his efforts in saving a woman’s life in January.
North Coast Towing driver Deon Atkins was presented with the accolade at the National Trucking Industry Awards Dinner in Canberra on Friday night.
The ATA Bridgestone Bandag Highway Guardian Award recognises members of the trucking community who go above and beyond the call of duty to assist those in need.
Mr Atkins was on the Pacific Highway performing his usual duties on 17 January when he saw an accident further up the road.
After arriving on the scene he immediately identified a woman slumped across her steering wheel. Following instinct and his first aid training, Mr Atkins sprang into action; leaning in the window to come to her aid by opening her airway until the ambulance arrived.
“I jumped out of my truck, opened her airway and kept her breathing until the ambulance arrived. I did what anyone with my training as an ex fire fighter and first aider would do,” Mr Atkins explained following the accident.
“I reached in through the driver’s window, which was smashed, and supporting her head and neck, lifted her up into her seat so I could get the airway open.”
According to responding paramedic, NSW Ambulance Acting Inspector Jacinta Young, Deon’s swift action prevented the accident from resulting in a fatality.
“The actions of [Deon Atkins] saved her life. By simply opening up her airway and maintaining her head in the neutral position, we have no doubt he saved her life,” she said.
North Coast Towing places an emphasis on compassion and support for its customers but stresses its primary concern is safety for its drivers and customers. All drivers complete pre-start safety checks and follow all regulations and industry best practice procedures.
The company conducts regular training and emotional support as well as arranging counselling following distressing incidents.
Owner of North Coast Towing, Scott Waites says Deon is a model employee with a spotless driving record who has only received compliments from local police and customers since starting with the company in 2016.
“Deon is a dedicated and reliable worker who often puts others before himself,” Mr Waites said.
Bridgestone Australia and New Zealand Managing Director Andrew Moffatt is continually amazed by the selfless efforts of the trucking community.
“Bridgestone takes great delight in presenting the Bridgestone Bandag Highway Guardian Award in recognition of those who go well beyond the call of duty. It is astounding the lengths that these truck drivers go to driven by their instincts,” Mr Moffatt said.
“Deon Atkins is another stand out of the trucking fraternity who doesn’t see himself as a hero, but has prevented the loss of a life through his quick thinking and direct actions.”
Australian Trucking Association Chairman Geoff Crouch extended his congratulations to Mr Atkins.
“Truck drivers like Deon Atkins and companies like North Coast Towing are a reminder of the benefit of having effective training and safety procedures in place,” Mr Crouch said.
“Deon was able to call on his training, assess the situation and then perform the relevant actions – all while remaining calm and in control of the situation.
“North Coast Towing and Deon prove that all trucking companies, from small operators through to major fleets have a role to play in road safety,” he added.