On February 11, a massive crash involving more than 130 vehicles occurred on the icy interstate in Fort Worth, Texas, in the U.S.
Trey McDaniel, a paramedic who was heading to work in his beloved FJ Cruiser, was one of the many involved in this deadly pile-up.
McDaniel clearly remembers how the accident happened. He stepped on the brakes immediately after hitting a patch of black ice, but it was too late and his FJ Cruiser was sent skidding, tapping the car in front of him. However, it did not end there. He was immediately gripped by a bigger sense of horror.
“In my rear-view mirror, I saw an out-of-control 18-wheeler hurtling toward me. I just took a moment to grip the steering wheel and braced myself for impact,” McDaniel says.
His beloved FJ Cruiser was destroyed. But McDaniel survived the crash. Despite bruises all over his body, he managed to crawl out the window of his mangled FJ Cruiser. That’s when he understood the full scope of the crash: more than 100 vehicles piled up in front and behind him.
Although he was wobbling from the shock of the accident, the very first thing he did was to go and help other victims.
“Everywhere I heard people screaming to be rescued, which I’ll never forget. My adrenaline was pumping, and I just felt, as a paramedic, I had to do something,” he recalls.
Being already in uniform, he rushed to the wrecked vehicles and started helping people out with emergency crews who arrived at the scene. By how he was acting, nobody could tell that he himself was a victim of the crash. Only later, an emergency crew noticed the wounds on his face and body, and said, “Wait a second. Were you part of it?”
McDaniel was taken to the hospital once the rescue operation was settled.
A Reply from Toyota
McDaniel posted on Reddit, a popular social media platform, about the incident.
“Brothers. I was in the Silver FJ on I35 yesterday in Fort Worth that got launched into the Northbound lanes. That Toyota saved my life.”
Seeing the photo of the totaled car, people were amazed that McDaniel survived the accident, and his selfless act to save people while being injured himself gained much praise. A team in Toyota Motor North America (TMNA), headquartered in Texas, was one of those who saw the post.
A few days later, a reply from Toyota was posted on Reddit.
“We’re just glad you’re safe and inspired that you chose to help others in need. We’re happy you’re part of the Toyota family. So, don’t worry about replacing your vehicle – it would be an honor for us to get you a new one.”
TMNA was impressed with and grateful for his sacrificial act, and decided to find a vehicle replacement for McDaniel: a 4Runner TRD Pro.
On February 25, two weeks after the accident, the vehicle presentation took place at a Toyota dealer.
“Despite having freezing temperatures, when I first heard about your heroic action, my heart warmed up,” said TMNA President and CEO Tetsuo “Ted” Ogawa. “Your story melted all our hearts at Toyota. Our company has a long-standing core value of respect and care for people. On behalf of all of us at Toyota, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You are a true hero.”
Bob Carter, Executive Vice President of Sales, also expressed his appreciation for McDaniel. “Your selfless act has inspired all of us. And we’re grateful you’re here today, and honored to have you as part of the Toyota family. Thank you, Trey.”
The “Toyota family” Carter referred to meant not only that McDaniel is Toyota’s loyal owner, but also that he was really a part of Toyota’s business. Coincidentally, McDaniel had worked as a sales associate at a Toyota dealership before becoming a paramedic. In fact, it was the dealer he used to work at, Texas Toyota of Grapevine, that the presentation took place.
Even after McDaniel left the dealership, he has continued to own Toyota vehicles. He’s especially thankful for his beloved FJ Cruiser. “It did its job, and I’ll always be thankful… for the rest of my life,” he says.
“I still can’t believe it. This is the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me,” McDaniel commented at the presentation when he was given the keys to the new 4Runner.
We’re All Heroes
It must have been hectic days for McDaniel…having been involved in a crash, helping people, and many people starting to call him a “hero” for what he did. Nonetheless, he remained calm and modest.
A few days after the crash, he was having an interview with a local TV station where he was told, “You are a hero.” He replied, with a little expression of shyness on his face, “Thank you, I’ll take it. But as a paramedic, I just do what everyone else in my field does. We’re all heroes.”
In his words, what we see is not about his personal satisfaction, but rather, his sincere commitment to his mission of saving people, and consideration for others who share the same mission.