OOIDA member saves fellow trucker from reefer fire

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | Thursday, February 11, 2016

Longtime truck driver and OOIDA Member Edward Wilcher was parked with his fiancée, who goes by her blogger name of Sierra Sugar, at Love’s Truck Stop in St. Joseph, Mo., last August. A commotion forced him to look up from his phone.

“One of the guys kept blowing his horn,” Wilcher said. “When I looked up, he was pointing toward my truck. I stepped out of my truck, and all I see is black smoke pouring out from the truck next to me.”

Courtesy of Edward Wilcher

Truck driver Randolph McAfee escaped his truck moments before it became engulfed in flames in August 2015 at a Love’s Truck Stop in St. Joseph, Mo. A fellow truck driver woke McAfee up to alert him to the fire.

Wilcher asked the others in the parking lot if they knew where the driver was.

“They all said, ‘I don’t know,’” Wilcher said. “I ran over and started beating on his truck. I was just about to break the window when he finally stuck his head out of the sleeper. He grabbed his shoes, wallet and phone and jumped out of the passenger side of the truck. Once I saw him get completely out of his truck, I got back in my truck. I pulled up, and as soon as the back of my truck was up to the nose of his, the reefer exploded. When it did that, his tractor became fully engulfed in flames. His tractor burned to the ground in less than seven minutes.”

The heroic effort earned Wilcher the Highway Angel award from the Truckload Carriers Association. More importantly, it earned Wilcher a friend.

Randolph McAfee was fresh out of the military and had been a truck driver for about three months when his reefer trailer caught fire. Now, McAfee still works for Raider Express out of Fort Worth, Texas. He enjoyed his 38th birthday on Feb. 10.

“We’re Facebook friends,” Wilcher said. “We’re pretty much lifelong friends now. I’ve talked to his mom, his dad. We talked just yesterday, because it was his birthday. I’m trying to talk him into going to MATS this year.”

An Aug. 20, 2015, article in the St. Joseph News-Press didn’t give a cause of the fire, but fire investigator Steve Henrichson did credit a fellow truck driver with saving McAfee’s life.

Wilcher said his decision to help McAfee was instinct.

“I just did it,” Wilcher said. “It’s something we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to take care of each other out here. I’ve been out here for almost 30 years. It’s a brotherhood. We’re supposed to look out for each other. When nine people told me they didn’t know where the driver was, it pissed me off. I just did what I had to do.”

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