LOUISVILLE, KY. Throwing aside any risk to himself, Tennessee truck driver Mike Schiotis positioned himself between a woman and attacker with a gun on the side of a highway on Nov. 1, 2011. Schiotis eventually got the woman to safety and led police to her attacker and for that, he has been named the 29th Goodyear Highway Hero Award winner for 2011.

Schiotis accepted his award today at the Mid-America Trucking Show.

A driver for Seville, OH-based Panther Expedited Services, Schiotis saw a woman walking with a man close behind. Thinking they were injured, Schiotis slowed down and that’s when he noticed the man was pointing a gun at the woman. He stopped his truck when the woman began pounding on his door, screaming, “Help me! He’s going to kill me!”

Schiotis got out of his truck and stepped between the woman and the attacker. Eventually helping the woman into his cab, Schiotis took off headed for the next Truckstop. The attacker followed, though, and began chasing the truck down the highway. After notifying the Pennsylvania State Highway Patrol, Schiotis used his CB radio to alert area truckers to the situation unfolding. Another trucker in the area worked with Schiotis as the two of them used their rigs to block the attacker from getting close to the cab, giving troopers time to catch up and apprehend him.

“We are grateful to Mike Schiotis for his quick thinking and brave actions,” said Phillip Kane, vice president of Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems. “He literally put himself ‘in the line of fire,’ and in all probability, prevented a tragedy from taking place. Mike’s decision to interject himself into this dangerous situation is a powerful example of the selflessness and professionalism exhibited by many of today’s professional truck drivers. Because of his action, a life was saved. For this, Mike Schiotis has earned the right to be called a hero.”

Schiotis was one of four finalists for the2011 North American Highway Hero Award. The other finalists:

  • John Crozman of Black Hawk, S.D., a driver for Long Haul Trucking in Albertville, Minn. While driving down a rest stop access road near Summit, S.D., on Feb. 3, 2011, in the middle of a severe snowstorm, Crozman noticed a candle flickering inside a car that was parked on the side of the highway. Fighting sub-zero winds, Crozman walked to the car and found an elderly couple inside. Ill-equipped for the dangerous weather, they had been trapped in the car for more than four hours. Crozman led the shivering man and woman to his truck and let them spend the night in his warm sleeper cab. The next day, he made sure they were safe and their car was rescued before continuing along his route.
  • Melville Farnell of Shelburne, Ontario, a driver for Tupling Farms Produce Inc., also based in Shelburne. Farnell was making a delivery on May 13, 2011, when a car that was traveling in the opposite direction veered into the path of his truck and slammed into it head-on. The impact caused Farnell’s tractor-trailer to jack knife. Diesel fuel began leaking onto the highway. Though shaken, Farnell approached the car, which had come to stop in a ditch. He observed a semi-conscious male in the driver’s seat. Farnell broke the driver’s side window and pulled the much heavier motorist to safety just minutes before the car exploded.
  • John Neumeier of Russia, Ohio, a driver for Bohman Trucking, also based in Russia. Neumeier was loading his milk delivery truck around 9 p.m. on Nov. 14, 2011, when a car driving down a nearby road missed a curve and plunged into an eight-foot-deep pond. As the car began to sink, Neumeier spotted the driver’s cell phone light. Knowing he had little time to waste, he grabbed a large wrench, dove into the pond, and beat on the driver’s side window until it broke. Neumeier pulled the driver, a 65-year-old man, out by his feet and hauled him to shore. The man was taken away by ambulance.

“Each of these finalists is a Highway Hero in his own right,” said Kane. “Each man rescued someone who was in life-threatening peril. We are honored to recognize these selfless gentlemen for their acts of courage and compassion.”

Founded by Goodyear in 1983, the Highway Hero program honors professional truck drivers for the often unnoticed rescues and roadside assistance they provide as their jobs take them across the United States and Canada.