Trucker stops toddler-driven van

| 5/30/2002

Authorities credited a truckdriver's quick thinking to help avert a possible tragedy May 23 when a toddler got behind the wheel of a van near Detroit.

Prestyn Seese, a 23-month-old tot, managed to climb out of his car seat and slide behind the wheel of his aunt's van when she left the motor running while briefly leaving the vehicle. Prestyn, who was in the van with four cousins under age 3, put the van in gear and drove it backward across a two-lane highway in Charlevoix Township.

Trucker Terry Lee Esch of Midland, MI, saw the van creeping backward across the highway toward an embankment. Esch, after seeing the tiny face behind the wheel, slowed his truck and maneuvered it between the van and the embankment. The driver's side of the van came to rest against the driver's side of the truck. No one was injured.

"[Esch] saw it was a child, and feared the van would go completely across the road and down an embankment or be struck by other vehicles," Charlevoix County Sheriff Thomas Lasater told news reporters.

The children reportedly were unfazed by all the commotion until they saw the hysterical aunt. "We're all just so thankful for the driver," the tot's aunt, Jennifer Oliver, said.