LOUISVILLE. Owner-operator Jorge Orozco Sanchez was named the 26th Goodyear North American Highway Hero for pulling two girls, aged one and four, out of a burning car moments before it exploded.
Hauling grain last Oct. 28 on Highway 392 north of Greeley, CO, Orozco Sanchez’s truck was hit head-on by an SUV that crossed the median. After impact, his rig pushed the SUV backward down the road for about 200 feet. “I sat there for a moment and didn’t know if I was alive or dead,” he told FleetOwner.
Despite being dazed by the crash, Orozco Sanchez quickly jumped from his cab and went to the other vehicle. There, with flames already beginning to surround the vehicles, he saw two girls strapped into their car seats and crying, with their mother lying motionless in the driver’s seat. Working with a passer-by who used a fire extinguisher to fight back the flames, Orozco Sanchez rescued the two girls.
Before he could get their 27-year old unconscious mother from the vehicle, the SUV’s fuel tanks ruptured and exploded, creating an inferno. She died in the blaze. The fire reduced the cab and the SUV to rubble, along with burning the side of a nearby building.
Orozco Sanchez, who sustained burns on his arms from the rescue, said he doesn’t feel like a hero –because he couldn’t save the mother of the two little girls, and also because he thinks anyone would’ve done what he did in that situation. “I think other drivers would have done exactly the same thing I did,” he said.
For his heroic efforts, Goodyear awarded Orozco Sanchez, a resident of Firestone, CO, a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond, a plaque and a specially designed ring. “Jorge’s quick thinking and bravery will be reflected in the lives of these two girls, just one and four years old, in years to come,” said Joseph Copeland, vp, Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems. “Though modest about the rescue, Jorge should feel proud of his actions. His heroics and those of the truck drivers honored through this award are truly inspiring.”