A North Carolina truck driver who intentionally ran his semi off an Interstate and into a guardrail in order to avoid smashing into a line of stopped vehicles has been credited with saving lives of a Virginia family who were stalled in traffic and directly in the big rig’s path before it went off the road.

The actions of trucker Bryan Keith Minton, 54, on June 28 are described in a letter from Chuck Price of Stuarts Draft, VA, who relates how the truck driver’s actions most likely saved the lives of Price, his wife and 8-year-old granddaughter, according to a report in The Wilkes Journal-Patriot.

Price and his family were driving north on Interstate 81 south of Lexington, VA, when Price had to suddenly stop due to stalled traffic in both lanes. He looked into the rear view mirror to see Minton’s tractor-trailer beginning to jackknife with blue smoke rolling off the tires.

“I really had to slam on the brakes to stop and I had moved over to the passing lane. I immediately looked into my rear view mirror and all I could say was ‘oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!’”  Price wrote to the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce.

“I glanced at my wife without saying a word and glanced back into the rearview mirror. I lost sight of the tractor-trailer and then we heard the most awful sound” of it wrecking.

Price’s granddaughter was asleep in the backseat and awoke to the sound of the truck crashing. Price said glass, mirrors, lights, and other debris were flying through the air all around his vehicle.

“I honestly did not know exactly what I was seeing. My first thought was that the cab had sheered off or that the trailer had smashed the cab. The traffic was beginning to move and I started going forward. My wife is saying we need to stop,” Price wrote.

Two truckers stopped beside Price pulled over and ran back to the accident to help. Price said he decided he needed to keep moving for the safety. Price said he was worried that the trucker had not survived the crash.

“I went out the next day and picked up a Roanoke Times newspaper. I was never so happy in my life to see the picture of the tractor-trailer lying on its side” under the headline that read “Driver Lived to Tell About It.”

“There are so many people who complain about I-81 and the tractor-trailer traffic, but they do not know about the defensive driving Mr. Minton used on June 28, 2012, that saved my family and me,” he said.

“I will be eternally grateful to Mr. Minton for what he did that day. If it had not been for Bryan Minton’s quick reaction and skill, I would not be sharing this story.

Minton said in an interview that he was going about 65 mph and couldn’t see more than 75 to 80 yards ahead because he was in a curve near the foot of a mountain when he realized the traffic ahead was stopped.

When he applied his brakes, the rig started to jackknife. Realizing he couldn’t stop in time to avoid crashing into the vehicles ahead, Minton straightened the rig and intentionally ran off the right side of the road and into the guardrails.

Minton said endangering his own life by intentionally steering off the road was his only viable option. “I had made my mind up a long time ago that this was what I would do if something like this ever happened,” he said.

The truck flipped over the guardrails and the empty passenger side of the cab was crushed but miraculously Minton only suffered bruises in the crash.