Windsor – Disabled Canadian veteran, Donald Potter, saves the lives and vehicle of two Military soldiers whose vehicle axle catches fire on highway 55 north between Sherbrooke and Windsor.
It is not very often a veteran lieutenant of the Canadian Forces has the chance to save the lives of fellow military personnel, their military vehicles and cargo. Yet on Monday, August 2021 this amazing story prevented the serious injuries and possible death of two Canadian Forces Military soldiers and the inevitable destruction of their vehicles and equipment.
While returning home to Cleveland from the rehabilitation hospital in Sherbrooke after therapy for a seriously injured right hand which was at risk of amputation; ex-Lieutenant Donald Potter saw in his rear-view mirror a military vehicle on highway 55 north approaching from behind. As the vehicle passed him, the Canadian Veteran noticed that the rear right axle caught fire on the military trailer.
The fire spread from the right wheel through the hollow axle to the left wheel. The trailer’s tires would soon be engulfed in flames, then the trailer itself and with it, the canvas tarp covering and whatever the trailer was hauling. He hoped it was not an ammunition trailer.
Potter tried to signal the military vehicle to stop, but military personnel do not pull over for civilians, due to security reasons. He passed them until he reached the driver’s door pointing to the rear trailer and instructed them to pull over as he shouted “Fire! Fire! Your trailer axle is on fire!” The driver finally pulled over, but the two wheels were now on fire.
The Veteran tried to pull out the fire extinguisher from the trunk of his car, but his injured finger and hand hit the extinguisher, causing so much pain he could not pick it up.
Once pulled over, the soldiers took out their fire extinguisher and Potter told them to call the fire department and immediately detach the trailer from the main military vehicle to avoid risk of further spread of the fire or even explosion if fire caught onto the tires. Their truck is operated with Diesel fuel, which is highly flammable and is difficult to extinguish.
While they extinguished the flames, Donald Potter controlled and diverted the traffic to the outside lane to prevent collisions as the smoke started to belch into the sky as the soldiers emptied their extinguishers on the axle. There was much further risk as it was after 5 o’clock and the traffic was very heavy. Should the fire go out of control, there could have been a major accident putting many lives at risk. The military did not want him to call the fire department; but Potter insisted, and immediately called *4141 to advise Sûreté du Québec, asking them to send the fire department to the scene.
The Windsor fire department arrived and did a great job flushing the trailer wheels and axle cooling them off, then separated the trailer from the primary vehicle. The towing removed the vehicle from the scene as the primary truck left for the Valcartier Military Base.
Now, there are questions to be considered; When was the last time this military trailer had a safety check on the axle bearings? Why was the involvement and evident experience from Donald Potter not recognized? He was treated as an old geezer.
We take the time to thank you, mister Potter, for your intervention and for your persistence in getting help. You saved multiple lives that day, and this deserves recognition.