Last week Keith Lenz and his wife were driving their packed pickup truck and U-Haul trailer to find a new life. Luck had been down for them lately and they needed a real break. They were in search of new employment.
Although they weren’t traveling with children, they were hauling some fragile cargo: their dog and her 5 12-week old pups in a whelping box. Space was tight, but they were anxious to take a new direction in life as they drove through the night.
About 90 minutes into the trip, Lenz noticed his truck bogging down. He pulled over and realized that there was smoke coming from under the hood. He got out to look around and saw flames under the truck spreading quickly. Lenz was caught – he had no fire equipment at the ready. It was packed into the U-Haul to make room for the puppies. He signaled to his wife that they were to get out of the truck as quickly as possible.
Soon, truck drivers arrived. The first rig on the scene was piloted by Canada Cartage’s Steve Devavanyi. He pulled to the shoulder and leapt out of the cab with fire extinguisher ready, but the truck was in full flame at that point. It was up to Devavanyi to just keep it from getting too far out of control.
There was quite a wind and it was fanning the flames, he said. We barely got out of the truck with our dogs and the whole thing went up like a Roman candle. Steve put his life at risk fighting 12-ft flames coming out of my truck and doing everything he could to save us and our belongings.”
Next to arrive was Canada Cartage driver Kelly Malanik.
It was minus 30 out and we didn’t even have our jackets. Kelly told us get in her truck to get warm and she gave us water.”
Then, Malanik further opened her heart to the couple and their dogs, eventually buying them coffee, offering clothes and blankets and even delivering them to Red Deer, where Kayla’s mom lives. And it was there that Keith saw that little puppy finally open his eyes, signalling the all clear.
And even though they lost the truck and trailer, the Lenz’s see Malanik and Devavanyi as life-saving angels from heaven.
After what happened to us Saturday, Lenz said, I have to tell you I have a whole new respect for truckers. They were awesome.
Doug Walton is Malanik’s manager at Canada Cartage. He says he’s very proud of the drivers and says they have been commended by their company for their bravery, compassion and heroism.
For her part, Malanik says she did simply what any person with a heart would do.
Except that before she was a trucker, Malanik served in the Armed Forces reserves and as an EMT. So she says she’s always at the ready to give anyone the help they need.
I don’t consider myself a hero. Malanik said. And you know what man? I’m just doing the right thing. But if I can be an inspiration to somebody else, I would just love that.