A quick-thinking 10-year-old boy saved his neighbor’s life and likely many others when he grabbed the wheel of a swerving truck from the passenger seat and steered it to safety, avoiding a collision as the vehicle barreled down a busy Alabama highway, officials said.
Third-grader Christopher Wheeler was taking a trip with his 70-year-old neighbor to a scrapyard Thursday when the man began having a diabetic episode, losing consciousness and control of his truck as they drove down Interstate 65 in Montgomery, police said.
An investigator with the Attorney General’s Office, Special Agent Eric Salvador, was heading north on I-65 when he saw the truck driving erratically, running cars off the road as it weaved across three lanes of traffic, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency wrote.
Salvador tried to stop the pickup truck, but the truck barreled on, exiting the Interstate before swerving into oncoming traffic and running a red light at one point, WSFA-TV reported.
The truck finally came to a stop about 10 miles later and when Salvador asked the driver, to turn off the vehicle, Wheeler did instead.
“When I approached the vehicle, the child told me that he wanted to go home and stepped out of the vehicle. He was terrified,” Salvador told reporters, saying that he then realized he was dealing with a medical emergency.
Salvador’s former partner, Senior Trooper Lee Walls, responded to a call to assist and got the child in his patrol car while Salvador gave the driver food, police said.
Emergency responders brought the driver, Alfred Smith, to the hospital, where he was listed in good condition, authorities said.
Walls brought Wheeler to get a meal at a fast food restaurant while they waited for his parents to pick him up, where he learned that the child had actually steered the truck to safety and reached over with his foot to apply the brakes, officials said.
“The child’s actions may have saved the driver’s life, his own life and the lives of others on the road at the time,” ALEA said in a Facebook post about the incident.
The post, which included a picture of Wheeler, Walls and Salvador, had garnered thousands of likes and praise for the boy, who commenters lauded as a hero.
“What a smart and capable 10 year old and what example for him with the two men in law enforcement,” one person wrote.
“Think how many lives this young man may have saved,” another person posted.
Wheeler told WSFA-TV he is considering a future career in law enforcement, saying: “I want to help people.”