Montgomery boy's heroics during highway horror go viral

Published: Mar. 26, 2016 at 3:12 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 3, 2016 at 3:12 AM CDT
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Christopher with Agent Salvador and Trooper Walls (Source: ALEA Facebook)
Christopher with Agent Salvador and Trooper Walls (Source: ALEA Facebook)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A Montgomery boy's story is making news across the country after his quick thinking made all the difference in a scary roadway ordeal.

Ten-year-old Christopher Wheeler was beyond brave when he took control of a car as it plunged head-on into oncoming traffic.

The third grader was riding with his elderly neighbor on a trip to the scrap yard Thursday on Interstate 65 when the 70-year-old driver started to have a diabetic episode. He was losing control of his truck as he started to go in and out of consciousness.

"He got sick and he was swerving across the road," Christopher said. "He started getting sweaty and said he needed a piece of candy."

Special Agent Eric Salvador with the Attorney General's Office was heading north on I-65 and spotted the pick-up truck as it was weaving back and forth across three lanes of traffic and running cars off the road.

"It almost hit the center wall several times," Salvador said.

Salvador tried to initiate a traffic stop with lights and sirens, but the car continued driving dangerously on the interstate. The bed of the truck was loaded up with materials so he could not tell how many people were inside. He called the state trooper post for backup.

When the truck got off at Exit 181, he called 911 to notify Millbrook authorities. Salvador continued chasing the truck down Highway 14, and it went into oncoming traffic several times and ran the red light in front of Walmart.

"At that point, the vehicle appeared to make a stop and slow down and started to pull to the side of the road," Salvador explained.

The chase came to an end after 10 miles thanks to Christopher taking control of the situation.

"I didn't want us to die," Christopher said. "The police were behind us the whole time with their lights on. I told him to stop, and he kept going. I put my foot on the brake, and I got the steering wheel and pulled it over and put it in park."

As he initiated the traffic stop, Salvador noticed that Christopher was in the car. Not yet knowing what he was dealing with, he asked the driver to turn off the vehicle. The driver did not respond or react so Christopher turned it off. He asked the driver to put his hands on the steering wheel and watched Christopher place his hands there.

"When I approached the vehicle, the child told me that he wanted to go home and stepped out of the vehicle," Salvador said. "He was terrified."

At that point, Salvador, who spent several years as a state trooper, realized he was dealing with a medical emergency.

His former partner, Senior Trooper Lee Walls, responded to call to assist and got Christopher into his patrol car.

Walls noticed the driver was lethargic and not responding and learned that he's a diabetic. He got an MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) from his car that he keeps for certain emergencies and gave the driver a cookie.

Paramedics arrived and took the driver, Alfred Smith, who goes by "Mr. Mitch," to the hospital.

When Walls went to his car, Christopher started giving him phone numbers of his family members and addresses so the trooper could notify his relatives. As they waited for them to pick Christopher up, Walls took him for something to eat because he was hungry.

Christopher then told Walls what happened.

"He grabbed the steering wheel and began to tug on the steering wheel and reach over with his left leg to apply the brakes. He was probably the main contributing factor to get the car stopped," Walls explained. "He was mature beyond his years."

A post the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency shared on Facebook after the incident has gone viral. It includes a picture of Christopher standing with Trooper Walls and Agent Salvador. The post has more than 43,000 likes, nearly 9,000 shares and more than 2,100 comments.

Mary Lee, Christopher's great aunt, says she was glad Christopher was there to help Mr. Mitch. She believes Christopher knew what to do because he's paid close to attention to his father's driving when they go places together.

"I'm speechless because he saved a lot of lives. From what he told me about what happened, there could have been accidents. They could have been hurt or killed or someone else," Mary Lee said. "I'm so proud of him. He likes to work and likes to help people. This is something he does all of the time."

Mr. Mitch was still in the hospital Friday afternoon but is in good condition.

"Without the heroism of that child, I think they would have crashed off the road or into another vehicle. I think he saved a lot of lives out there," Salvador said. "I've been in law enforcement eight years and I've never seen anything like this."

Christopher says he's considering a future career in law enforcement.

"I want to help people," Christopher said.

Authorities say people with diabetes need to be up on their medicines and make sure they eat something before they get behind the wheel. They ask parents to talk to their children about what to do case of an emergency when they're on the road.

Christopher knows his life-saving actions have made him a star on social media. He's just happy he was able to help.

"It brings tears to my eyes for what he did because it took a lot for him to do that and Mr. Mitch is a big six foot man and how he got over that steering wheel to stop that truck, it really amazes me," his great aunt said. "He used his instinct to stop that truck and I know God was with him."

"I have an 11-year-old son, and I'm not sure he would have been able to do that. I was very impressed," Walls said. "I think he's a hero and he probably saved some lives- his own, the driver, and those in oncoming traffic."

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