LOUISVILLE, KY. Back on Feb. 20, 2009, truck driver Junichi Shimizu was involved in an accident not of his own making. But, his quick thinking helped save the lives of three people and for that, Goodyear Tire Co. has named Shimizu its 27th annual Goodyear North America Highway Hero.

Shimizu accepted the award and a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond during the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Shimizu, a driver for Chipman Relocations, was driving westbound on Highway 12 near Fairfield, CA, when he spotted a vehicle cross the centerline and strike an automobile in front of his truck. The car spun into the ditch and the second vehicle hit his tractor twice before bursting into flames.

He quickly stopped his truck, called for help, and then set to help the injured drivers and passengers. Shimizu headed to the car on fire, breaking the driver’s side door window before he and another motorist, who helped free the driver’s pinned foot, pulled the injured motorist to safety.

Shimizu then turned his attention to the second vehicle. After assessing that the driver of that vehicle had been killed, he worked to remove two injured passengers. Shimizu than retrieved his fire extinguisher to keep the fire under control until the local fire department arrived.

Shimizu, of Gladstone, Ore., also has been recognized by the California Highway Patrol with a certificate of commendation for his role in the lifesaving effort.

“In this terrible accident, one driver perished, and our thoughts and prayers go out to this family,” said Joseph Copeland, Goodyear’s vp of commercial tire systems. “But we also honor the quick actions and selflessness of Junichi Shimizu. Although his own rig was struck in this accident, he remained calm and immediately pulled his vehicle to a stop and called for help. He then reacted quickly and put himself in harm’s way, in order to help rescue strangers who were in peril. Because of that decision, three lives were saved. For this, Junichi has earned the right to be called a hero.”

Founded by Goodyear in 1983, the Highway Hero program recognizes professional truck drivers and the often unnoticed, life-saving rescues and roadside assistance they provide as their jobs take them across North America.

Shimizu was one of four finalists for the award. The others were George Lantzy, of Turtle Creek, PA, a driver for Fubar Trucking; Stephen Page, of Gloucester, MA, a driver for Pit Bull Trucking; and Jesse Lee Seal, of Alma, AR, a driver for PDP Unlimited.