It doesn’t get any hotter than mid-August in the United States, especially in the extreme south. On August 15, 2017, Bennett owner operator Christopher Cooper learned the limits of his body as he was unloading freight at a customer site at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport in Florida. Chris’s story is a safety caution to drivers this time of year and he and the Bennett team are very thankful to the airport staff who went above and beyond to help him.
The evening before he was to deliver a passenger boarding bridge to the airport, Chris drank plenty of water and Gatorade for electrolytes and ate a good dinner in nearby Fort Pierce Florida. Chris is no stranger to the need for hydration even the night before a job to be able to maintain strength and avoid heat issues. Not only is Chris an experienced owner operator, but he is also a former US Marine who knows hydration guidelines well from his tour in Iraq, where temperatures could sometimes reach 120 degrees. Chris got up in the morning, ate a light breakfast and had plenty of water, then headed to the unload site at the appointed time around 10:30am. In his truck, he packed a cooler full of ice and water for his day’s work.
Too Much Too Fast
Unloading the truck was not unlike most jobs that a Bennett owner operator encounters. He watched as cranes plucked the freight from his drop deck trailer. Work crews setup the bridge and put it in place. Chris spent the next half hour in 112 degree heat, stifling humidity and the heat exhaust of jets buffeting him while he worked. Pounding in pins on his 5,000 lb. flip axle, stowing chains and binders and readying his truck for departure was too much too fast. Chris took one of his many hydration breaks and felt his hands trembling uncontrollably. He felt himself breathing heavily. He had trouble scrolling through his contacts on his phone to reach the main office. While on the phone, Chris blacked out in the seat of his truck with the door opened. When he came to, the phone call had ended and he was disoriented. He took a towel, and dunked it into his cooler and draped it around his head (which was pounding from headache) and upper body. He got down out of his truck and stumbled to a tree to get some shade. As he did this, airport security personnel who were eating lunch saw him and immediately sprang into action.
The Heat Gets the Better of Chris
Two airport security personnel, Jason Goltzman and Joe Garcia, came to Chris with some water. He drank four bottles of water and they dumped six more onto his body to cool him down. They took Chris inside the terminal where he continued to tremble and became disoriented – a sign of heat exhaustion. Sensing that they could not stabilize Chris’s condition, Jason and Joe called 911 to get a Broward County ambulance and paramedics to better treat him. It took 3 EMTs and Jason to get Chris into the ambulance. His body was very stiff, making it difficult for the men to move him. The decision to get Chris professional attention saved him from getting into even worse condition. In the ambulance Chris’s internal core temperature was measured at 144 degrees. It took 4 bags of IV fluid en route and another 3 bags at the hospital to bring Chris from the brink of heat stroke, to a normal body temperature.
Going Above and Beyond to Help
Jason Goltzman and Joe Garcia made sure to call on Chris’s wife throughout the day to keep her informed of his condition. Once Chris was released from the hospital Jason made sure to pick up him up and get him back to his truck. Jennifer Haney, Chris Cooper’s Fleet Manager at Bennett, received call a day later from Jason checking on Chris again. “These men are truly excellent staff with big hearts!”, said Jennifer. “We are truly grateful and blessed that they were there for Chris and we hope that the airport takes a minute to recognize these men for going above and beyond to help another. The nation is having a striking heat surge everywhere and the knowledge of their staff very well may have saved a life in this situation.”
Chris Cooper’s Advice to Drivers
- The day before a job in hot weather, make sure to hydrate by drinking plenty of water and sports drinks
- Hydrate constantly as you are working the job. You can never drink too much!
- Wear light, moisture wicking clothing
- If you experience any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, pay attention to them immediately. This includes blurred vision, an accelerated heart rate, or shaking in your hands. Get into the shade, take a break, and drink water.