Right Place, Right Time

A deadly pile-up crash destroyed Trey McDaniel’s beloved FJ Cruiser. What happened next earned the paramedic a new vehicle, compliments of Toyota.
by Kristen Orsborn
March 2021
Right Place, Right Time
A Hero’s Reward
Toyota presented Trey McDaniel with a 2021 4Runner TRD Pro at Texas Toyota of Grapevine. “I still can’t believe it,” says McDaniel. “This is the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me.”
February 11 began just as any other day for Trey McDaniel.

The paramedic was headed to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Fort Worth, Texas to help administer shots. It was an unusually frigid morning, but his pre-dawn drive down I-35 was going smoothly — until

McDaniel noticed a pile-up crash in the distance.

By then, it was too late.

McDaniel hit a patch of black ice, sending his 2011 FJ Cruiser into a skid. He slammed his brakes and tapped the car in front of him. But in his rear-view mirror, McDaniel saw an out-of-control 18-wheeler hurtling toward him.

“I just took a moment to grip the steering wheel and braced myself for impact,” McDaniel says. “I can’t even find the words to describe how it felt. At first, I wasn’t even sure I survived.”

But he did.

The FJ Cruiser was destroyed. But McDaniel was OK. He wiggled his toes, flexed his legs, and realized he could escape.

McDaniel crawled out the window of his mangled FJ Cruiser. That’s when he understood the full scope of the crash: more than 100 vehicles piled up. There was wreckage as far as he could see.


A Fan for Life
McDaniel’s 2011 FJ Cruiser was destroyed in the crash, but he says “it did its job.” McDaniel says he’s a Toyota customer because of the company’s commitment to quality, durability, and reliability.

“Everywhere I looked, I just saw more cars, and more people who needed help,” he says. “I heard people screaming to be rescued, which I’ll never forget. My adrenaline was pumping, and I just felt, as a paramedic, I had to do something. I’ve seen bad crashes before. But this was on a totally different level.”

McDaniel connected with emergency crews arriving at the scene, assisting with rescues and keeping crash survivors calm.

“To me, it was a no-brainer,” McDaniel says. “As a paramedic, it’s my duty to help people in their time of need.”

McDaniel was grateful to survive the crash. But his FJ Cruiser was totaled. He spent much of his free time working on the vehicle and enjoyed taking it on trails and the open road.

He shared his experience on an FJ Cruiser online fan forum, and the reaction was swift. Word eventually reached Toyota’s corporate headquarters. After learning of McDaniel’s heroic decision to help others, the company responded to his online post:

“We’re just glad you’re safe and inspired that you chose to help others in need. We’re happy you’re part of the Toyota family. So, don’t worry about replacing your vehicle it would be an honor for us to get you a new one!”

Toyota’s marketing and corporate communications teams worked together to find a replacement for McDaniel: a 2021 4Runner TRD Pro in Lunar Rock.

The vehicle was delivered to McDaniel at Texas Toyota of Grapevine in late February. In fact, it was a bit of a full circle moment for McDaniel. Before becoming a paramedic, he worked as a sales associate at the dealership.

For Toyota’s leadership, the decision to give McDaniel the 4Runner was easy.

“Despite having freezing temperatures, when I first heard about your heroic action, my heart warmed up,” says Toyota Motor North America President and CEO Tetsuo “Ted” Ogawa. “Your story melted all our hearts at Toyota. Our company has a long-standing core value of respect and care for people. On behalf of all of us at Toyota, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You are a true hero.”

McDaniel was overcome with emotion as he received the keys to his new vehicle. And while he’s grateful for the gift, he’s especially thankful for his beloved FJ Cruiser.

“It did its job,” McDaniel says. “And I’ll always be thankful… for the rest of my life.”
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