Highway guardian honoured for heroic efforts
IT WAS a fresh June morning when Suez driver Darell Wilson was headed westbound on the M5 in Sydney.
The day hadn't started off in the usual way: Instead of travelling onto his usual route, Darell was held up and had to head straight to Wetherill Park for a small service.
Little did Darell know moments later his life was about to change and his quick reactions were all that stood between more than 20 lives and disaster - in an act of driving bravery that made international headlines.
"I saw the bus on the side of the road sitting there from a while away, I wondered what it was doing but it came to a complete stop at a corner turn,” Darell said.
"This was a highway but, at the last minute, the bus decided to go for it.”
As he inched closer, Darell saw in horror the bus was packed with more than 20 school children.
"I saw the kids, my brain went crazy - it was go to the wall or try and stop the truck another way,” he said.
"But the brain is such a powerful thing, it showed me all the calm.
" I thought OK, I will try and avoid the bus and twitched the wheel about 40 mil.”
The end result was Darell intentionally turning his semi-trailer towards a concrete barrier and jack-knifed, in order to wash off speed and avoid the bus as it pulled into oncoming traffic.
"We all lived to see the next day. I just had to replace a few wheels, that's all,” he said.
Within days, footage of the incident had travelled around the nation, earning him praise from the general public and trucking community for his actions.
In December Darell was awarded the Australian Trucking Association's greatest honours, the Bridgestone Bandag Highway Guardian Award, recognising his swift action to avoid a major accident.
Mr Wilson was also recognised by industry body, the Waste Contractors and Recyclers' Association NSW, by way of a safety award for the same reason, a recognition Darell sees as a great honour.
"It was hard, after that. All I wanted to do was get under a rock and hide, I didn't want the attention,” he said.
"My job is to keep safe on the road, so everyone can get home.
"I appreciate it, don't get me wrong, but I don't want to be labelled a hero.
"I'm just a truck driver, it could have happened to anybody if circumstances had of been different it could have been catastrophic,” he said.
Bridgestone Australia and New Zealand managing director Andrew Moffatt admired Mr Wilson's selfless act to avoid endangering the lives of others.
"Darell Wilson is a credit to SUEZ. His split-second decision prevented a major accident from taking place,” Mr Moffatt said.
Australian Trucking Association chair Geoff Crouch also praised Darell.
"Truck drivers are under constant pressure on the road but the last thing Darell Wilson would have expected was to see a bus pulling out in front of him,” Mr Crouch said.
"Thankfully, due to his quick thinking and incredible vehicle control, Mr Wilson prevented an accident occurring, demonstrated the importance and benefit of proper driver training and highlighted how crucial it is to remain vigilant on the roads,” he said.
The Bridgestone Bandag Highway Guardian Award honours professional truck drivers who go above and beyond the call of duty to assist those around them.