A lot of things had to go wrong for Dawna Jacobsen to become a hero. But it was “divine intervention,” she says, that kept disrupting her schedule and put her on a path to help save a life.
As she prepped her run on a cold, snowy afternoon in Northern Ontario last December, the Erb Transport driver encountered “one delay after another.” First there was a setback at the yard, then a glitch with her fuel card, followed by an hour wait for her shower at a Flying J.
It was already dark as she got out of Kapuskasing, Ont. on Hwy 11, when the Winnipeg-based driver saw what appeared at first to be a large box sliding on the road towards her truck. As it approached closer, she realized it was in fact a moving snowmobile. And no one was on it. Immediately, Dawna knew something was wrong. She instinctively steered the truck away from the snowmobile, avoiding contact with it and carefully brought her truck to a full stop. Assuming there could be a defenceless accident victim somewhere on the road, she used her truck to block incoming traffic from driving through the area.
When she got out of her truck, she saw by the side of the highway a small boy who was severely injured. Dawna jumped back in her truck and called 9-11. At that point, she noticed two men also stopped and began to attend to the boy. She then communicated vital information back and forth between the dispatcher and the other two attendants until emergency personnel arrived.
It turned out that the boy, who survived because of the actions of Dawna and the other two men at the scene, was hit by a car as he was attempting to cross the dark highway on his snowmobile.
“I was terrified for that poor child. I didn’t want to look, but I had to. You just do it. You don’t think about it. I knew someone needed help ASAP, so that’s all that I cared about,” she recalls. “I honestly believe that everything that occurred to me that day leading up to this happened for a reason. I think it’s something like divine intervention. Luck isn’t involved. It’s God grace; His mercy; His love; His protection.”
For her heroic actions, Dawna was presented with the 2023 Bridgestone-OTA Truck Hero Award at the OTA’s annual executive conference in Toronto last night.
“Dawna’s actions reflect the values, the integrity, and all the aspects that we strive to have in a driver,” says Erb Transport president Wendell Erb. “We at Erb are so proud of her for her actions and quick thinking to make sure the incident didn’t get any worse than it was and then immediately get help to the scene, which helped saved this boy’s life.
“I’m sure Dawna does not think she’s a hero. She thinks she was just doing her job. But I would say she’s definitely a hero and is very deserving of this award.”
Dawna, who has helped her siblings raise several nieces and nephews and worked with marginalized aboriginal children before becoming a truck driver, says that kindness and selflessness are enduring virtues she holds dear both on and off the road. If everyone would take a bit more time to consider others and be more vigilant, it would make driving safer for everyone, she explains.
“We as drivers, all of us – professional and personal – need to really hold back and understand that each life is precious, and each vehicle holds at least one soul and one life, and we need to be courteous,” she says. “We need to share the road. We need to be kind.”