Heroic Truck Driver Receives Award for Saving Trafficking Victim
Joe Aguayo, a truck driver for WinCo Foods, has been recognized with the prestigious Harriet Tubman Award for his heroic actions in rescuing a human trafficking victim. While driving his route in North Idaho, Aguayo observed a woman on the side of the road, wrapped in a towel and showing signs of distress. Although he didn’t have cell service to call for help, he raced to the nearest call box to notify the Idaho State Police (ISP) immediately.
ISP responded promptly and provided assistance to the woman, who was found in a vulnerable and alarming state. Aguayo was relieved to know that his quick thinking had led to her rescue, even though he didn’t initially realize she was a victim of human trafficking. The woman had suffered physical injuries, drug intoxication, and her head had been shaved. Aguayo expressed deep empathy for her ordeal, emphasizing that it’s difficult to fathom the horrors she endured.
Before this incident, Aguayo had received specialized training through Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), a nonprofit organization that educates drivers to recognize and report signs of human trafficking. WinCo Foods decided to actively participate in the fight against this heinous crime by training their drivers to be vigilant and responsive. By educating their drivers on what to do if they encounter someone in distress, WinCo aims to make a significant impact in the battle against human trafficking.
For his courageous actions, WinCo Foods nominated Aguayo for the Harriet Tubman Award, presented by TAT. This award is named after the renowned abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who played a pivotal role in freeing countless slaves. Aguayo was honored with the award, and he attended the award ceremony in Indianapolis. The award, which includes a $2,500 check, is given to transportation industry professionals who take direct actions to save or improve the lives of human trafficking victims or prevent such crimes from occurring.
Aguayo now serves on the WinCo Safety Committee, where he shares his experience with TAT and helps train new employees to be vigilant and observant while on the road. He emphasizes the importance of trusting one’s instincts and reporting anything suspicious to the appropriate authorities. His dedication to raising awareness about human trafficking and aiding in the rescue of victims exemplifies the commitment of drivers like him who are making a difference in the fight against these crimes.
Despite the successful rescue of the woman Aguayo encountered, he remains haunted by the thought of how many other victims may be out there. The awareness and actions of vigilant individuals like Aguayo are essential in preventing and addressing the issue of human trafficking.
As Aguayo continues his work and advocacy against human trafficking, he serves as a shining example of how one person’s alertness and willingness to act can make a significant impact in the battle against this appalling crime.