News

Man honored for heroism, saving trucker

By MIKE BROWN Reporter Editor

Donald pulled fellow trucker Willie Rabelais from the wreckage of this rig seconds before it exploded and burned on January 9. Donald pulled fellow trucker Willie Rabelais from the wreckage of this rig seconds before it exploded and burned on January 9. Bystanders do just that, stand by. Heros act.

Twenty-eight year-old Robert Donald of Troy is a hero and Monday he received the Department of Public Safety's Director's Award, the highest bestowed upon civilians by the DPS.

On Jan. 9 of this year Donald pulled a fellow trucker from the wreckage of a gravel truck 20 seconds before the rig exploded into flames at the side of FM 487 near the Tracy community.

The driver, 69-year-old Willie Rabelais of Killeen, sustained a broken collarbone but survived. Thanks to Donald.

DPS Capt. Dwight Mathis made the award presentation to Donald during a brief ceremony in Justice of the Peace Chip Dunsmoor's courtroom in the Milam County Law Enforcement Center in Cameron.

The newly-honored hero was coaxed to tell his story more than once. Donald recounted, almost shyly, the events of last Jan. 9.

'On its side'

Donald and Rabelais were hauling gravel to Alcoa's Rockdale Operations for Shallow Ford Construction Co. of Temple.

Smile of a hero as Robert Donald accepts highest DPS civilian award from Capt. Dwight Mathis on Monday at the Milam County Law Enforcement Center. Smile of a hero as Robert Donald accepts highest DPS civilian award from Capt. Dwight Mathis on Monday at the Milam County Law Enforcement Center. "I think I'd met Willie exactly one time," Donald recalled. "I came around the corner and there was this truck on its side and grass was already burning around it."

Donald grabbed a fire extinguisher, put out some of the blaze, hopped up onto the cab and looked inside.

"He was still in there," Donald said. "I knew I had to get him out of there so I pulled him up and out. That was about it."

Lifesaver

Trooper Mark Berry, who nominated Donald for the award, talked to Rabelais in the aftermath.

"Mr Rabelais told me there was no way he could have gotten out by himself," Berry said. "He had a fractured clavicle (collarbone) and one of his legs was trapped. There were already flames two to three feet tall."

"About 20 seconds after Mr. Donald pulled him out the truck's fuel tanks exploded," Berry said. "He was not going to get out of that cab and walk away on his own. There's no doubt Mr. Donald saved his life."

The ensuing fire plumed black smoke 50 feet into the air and was extinguished by the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department. The truck fire triggered a large grass fire which required the assistance of several area VFDs.

The truck was a total loss.

"A lot of times I think it is easier to to do nothing than to do the right thing," Berry said. "He deserves this award."

Also in attendance at the ceremony were Donald's wife, Tambra and two of their three children, six-year-old Haydon and threeyear old Haylee.

"I just did what I hope everyone would have done for me," Donald said.


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The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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