Highlighting driver heroism

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So the 31st annual Goodyear Highway Hero Award ceremony will take place next month during the Mid America Trucking Show, and as usual the stories illustrating why these particular truck drivers are being considered for this award are nothing short of harrowing: 

Brian Dunn, a driver from Knoxville, TN, witnessed a car crash through a guard rail and land on its roof in the middle of a highway in Oklahoma. He ran to the car as its engine caught fire. Running back to his truck to grab a fire extinguisher, he heard a child crying. Dunn spotted a two-year-old boy who was trapped in the back seat of the burning vehicle. Braving the flames, Dunn yanked on the car’s door until it gave way, allowing him to rescue the child, whom he then handed to bystanders. Dunn ran back to his truck for his fire extinguisher, while other bystanders tried to rescue the boy’s mother, who had driven the car. They later learned that she had died as a result of the crash.

 

Tim Horton, (at right), a driver from Sheridan, AR, watched a when a small car pass his truck, spin out and then crash into a 35-foot-deep ravine alongside a highway near Tuscaloosa, AL, with the car landing upside down in a creek bed. The car’s driver, a teenager, was trapped inside the car and had suffered a large cut on his head. Horton got out of his truck and flagged down the driver of another vehicle, who happened to be a volunteer firefighter, to assist him. Horton and the firefighter made their way down the steep, brush-covered embankment and found the teenager alive, but bleeding heavily. Horton cut the teenager’s seatbelt and pulled him from the car. After Horton and the firefighter stabilized the teenager’s condition, Horton called for additional help. It took 10 men using a 50-foot fire ladder to transport the teenager to a waiting ambulance.

 

Scott Rosenberg, (at left), a driver from Isanti, MN, had just dropped off a load in Stillwater, MN, when he spotted a pickup truck that was upside down in a pond, with steam rising from it. At the time, Rosenberg was driving a trailer with a boom crane used for loading heavy concrete products. Acting quickly, he positioned his crane in place, hoping to flip the pickup truck over and back onto its wheels. In the meantime, two other men had reached the pickup and were trying to pry its doors open, to no avail. Using his crane, Rosenberg turned the pickup right-side up. Its driver, a college student who had fallen asleep at the wheel, was still alive. Police then arrived and pulled the student from the vehicle.

 

Ivan Vasovic, a driver from Rancho Cucamonga, CA, witnessed a double tanker truck hit the concrete divider of a freeway overpass, careen off a wall, and slam into a guard rail. Its tanks, which were full of diesel, ripped open and the truck came to a stop with its tractor and first tanker hanging over the side of the overpass. The truck’s driver was trapped inside and was trying to exit when the diesel ignited. The driver, now on fire, kicked out a window, slid down the truck and fell 20 feet to the ground, breaking his arm and leg. By that point, the suspended truck was engulfed in flames. Vasovic and another bystander tried to pull the driver to safety. However, due to the intense heat, they could only drag him a few yards at a time. Vasovic ran to his truck and poured water on himself, which enabled him to drag the driver 20 yards away from his original position. Moments later, the entire burning tanker truck crashed to the ground.

 

Yet probably one of the more amazing things that those stories – and the many others considered for nomination – is that the truck drivers involved really don’t consider what they did out of the ordinary, much less heroic.

 

“Truck drivers as you know aren’t required to stop and render assistance; they are not legally obligated to do so,” Mike Manges, manager of commercial tire/off-highway tire communications for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. – which sponsors this annual award – told me by phone.

 

“Yet not only did they stop and render aid, if they HADN’T stopped, the individuals they saved more than likely would have died,” Manges said. “That shows why, in many ways, trucks drivers really are often the true ‘first responders’ in a highway crash, arriving before police or fire and rescue personnel.”

 

He stressed, though, that almost every “hero” nomination comes from law enforcement, the media, even the general public but rarely from the drivers themselves.

 

“On one level these are very humble people; they are not looking to receive credit for their deeds,” Manges explained. “But on another they hold beliefs similar to what Jason Harte, last year’s winner, expressed: a ‘do unto others’ philosophy, meaning that drivers do what they could to help out because they hope someone would do the same for them if they were caught in similar circumstances.”

 

That’s why he said Goodyear remains committed to continuing the “Highway Hero” award.

 

“We feel it’s very important to recognize these people for their deeds, in part because they don’t take credit for what they’ve done and because the trucking industry as a whole gets a ‘bad rap’ and unjustifiably so in light of the actions by truck drivers like Brian Dunn, Tim Horton, Scott Rosenberg, and Ivan Vasovic,” Manges pointed out. “It’s just so easy to take for granted that help will alsways come when you’re in trouble on the side of the road. That’s not always so. And in each of those cases above, if the truck driver had not stopped, they might have ended tragically.”

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