The Texas pile up on February 11th took the lives of 6 people as Winter storm Shirley bared down on many states across the country. Rare wintery conditions had iced over highways all across Texas, including Interstate 35 in Fort Worth. In the early morning hours, 133 vehicles, including dozens of semis, some of them loaded with cars, were involved in the mass accident.
A video of the pileup as it happened is included below. At one point, a white truck is seen crashing into the ever-growing mass of vehicles. Moments later, a semi comes barreling down, smashes into it and the force of the impact sends the now-crumpled vehicle into the opposite lane, over the barrier. The man in the truck, MedStar paramedic, Trey McDaniel, survived. McDaniel said he saw the semi barreling at him at full speed and there was nothing he could do.
But he not only survived both crashes, once he got out of his now crumpled 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser, as he puts it himself, he went into “emergency mode” and started helping out other victims. McDaniel said he started helping other victims as soon as he got his bearings. He was dizzy and in pain but he was able to help out. In fact, he was already in his uniform, since he was driving to work when the accident happened so he was assisting crash victims for quite some time before other medics on the scene realized he was a victim himself.
McDaniel posted about his experience on Reddit, leaving out the details of his heroic behavior afterwards and explaining how his off road tires, as well as the car itself saved his life. “I was launched over the center barrier into the Northbound lanes while still inside. If you slow the video down, I made a full rotation, my roof rack came off, and the FJ landed on top of it, fortunately wheels down. Every airbag deployed, and the cab was a safe cocoon,” he writes. “I was alive. I oriented myself and crawled out of my driver window.”
A friend launched a GoFundMe in his name, in the hope that he might be able to replace the vehicle – an essential item for him, since he needs it for his daily work commute. Toyotausa caught wind of his posting and commented “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!” Toyota doesn’t offer the FJ Cruisers in the US anymore so they offered McDaniel a vehicle of his choice and he opted for a brand new 4Runner TRD Pro.
This isn’t the first time Toyota has offered to reward heroes for their heroic actions. In 2018, the automaker provided a new Tundra to Allyn Pierce, a nurse who burnt his old truck to a crisp helping to evacuate patients and staff in the Paradise, California wildfires before attempting to leave the area himself.