Shelly Porter was driving her eight-year-old daughter Abby on Route 66 in Kansas from their home in Galena to school in Riverton Wednesday morning, when an emergency struck. Abby’s mom suddenly passed out unconscious at the wheel of the family SUV — which was scary enough for the little girl. But it was about 8:30 in the morning, the four-lane highway was busy with traffic, and the SUV was moving.
But Abby had no idea how to make it stop.
What she did know how to do, as best she could, was steer. Her dad often allowed her to steer his tractor and lawn mower. So Abby grabbed the wheel and somehow managed to keep the SUV on the road, at about 20 mph.
Though she weaved somewhat between lanes, Abby kept the car going. The only solution she could think of was “going home to see my daddy,” she later said. Amazingly, Abby Porter pulled off a successful U-turn on the four-lane highway.
“That’s at 8:37 in the morning, and there is a lot of traffic, a lot of trucks,” marveled Galena Police Chief Larry Delmont.
A Galena police officer, Jimmy Hamilton, spotted the unsteady vehicle. His first thought was that he had a drunk driver on his hands. But when he pulled alongside the SUV, he saw what was really going on. Shelly was still slumped over and Abby was in control.
The situation was becoming dangerous and scary — there was an intersection ahead and Abby had no idea how to bring the SUV to a halt. Hamilton maneuvered his cruiser in front of the SUV, but Abby was afraid of hitting the police car, so she switched lanes every time Hamilton got in front of her.
Finally, Hamilton pulled alongside the SUV and convinced Abby that it would be okay to hit his bumper.
“I never saw her cry,” said the officer. “It was just the expression on her face and the tone of her voice, you could tell she was scared. But she stayed with it.”
Then Hamilton drove in front of the SUV again, and Abby did exactly what she needed to do.
“She just steered right into my rear bumper, and I started applying slow pressure on my brakes until both vehicles stopped,” said Hamilton.
The cause of Shelly Porter’s collapse was not clear, but she was rushed to the hospital and was reportedly home resting by Wednesday evening.
Now the Galena Police Department is set to honor Officer Hamilton, while the town of Galena will present Abby Porter with a plaque for “outstanding bravery in a life-threatening situation.”