Hawks, 36, of Highland Manor, was driving on U.S. 29 in the White Oak area just after 5 a.m., en route to a delivery he was making in connection with his job as a truck driver for Keebler Cookie Co.
Just behind him was a station wagon driven by Michael Wyant, 36, of Silver Spring, Md. It was before dawn, and the headlights of Wyant's car were on. Hawks, for reasons he cannot explain, was watching the headlights in his rear-view mirror.
"I don't know why I was looking in the mirror, but I'm glad I was," he said Tuesday.
The lights disappeared as the two vehicles were crossing a bridge spanning a creek. Hawks turned his truck around and got out.
"Curiosity got the best of me," he said.
In the darkness, he could see nothing below the roadside. He still suspected that something had happened, so he drove to a gas station, called police, and then returned to the scene.
He was met there by an off-duty police officer, who shined a flashlight down the embankment. The two men saw the station wagon sitting upright near some rocks beside the creek.
"I don't know how in the world it stayed on its wheels, but it did," Hawks said.
Hawks said he walked down the embankment and saw Wyant in the car. Wyant had several injuries, but was conscious and able to speak, he said.
Wyant was taken to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., where he was listed in serious condition Monday. On Tuesday his condition was upgraded to fair, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
Police said the cause of the accident was under investigation.
Hawks refuses to take credit for Wyant's survival, saying that was decided by a higher power. But he said Wyant would have been at the bottom of the embankment for a long time had he not noticed the accident.
"I just happened to be there at the right time, and I'm just glad Mike is OK," he said.