LOUISVILLE. All theories and training aside, it's a critical moment: what if you're out driving and suddenly come across an accident, and what you do right then could mean someone else's life or death? David Webb, Chris Baker and Tim Freiburger, this year's finalists for the Goodyear Highway Hero award announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show, took action when that moment came.
"Drivers who saved other lives by putting their life at risk, drivers who help complete strangers just to make sure they got home safe and sound to their family — drivers who did all this not for praise and not for recognition but simply because it was the right thing to do — these drivers have earned the right to be called heroes," said Gary Medalis, marketing director at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Webb was named this year's Highway Hero.
Here's the three finalists and their stories:
David Webb of Billings, MT, was driving his truck with his wife Carol when they spotted a dump truck in the next lane swerving. David pulled up and saw the dump truck's driver slumped over the steering wheel. After parking his own truck, David ran after the dump truck, hopping onto its running board and reaching in and applying the brakes. Bringing the truck to a stop and working with a bystander, David pulled the driver out and performed CPR.
Chris Baker of Chicopee, MA, was out on a run when he came across a minivan that had flipped over onto its side and caught fire. The van's passenger escaped, but the unconscious driver remained inside. After putting out the fire, Chris, working with a bystander, unfastened the driver's seat belt, grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away from the van.
Tim Freiburger of Huntington, IN, was driving when he saw a car lose control and drive into a creek, where it came to a stop upside-down in standing water. The car contained a mother and three children. Tim broke a window, pulled the children out and carried them to safety. He returned to the car and rescued the children's mother.
"I just hit the ground running. I told her to call 911," Webb says, recalling the incident that won him the award. "I chased [the other driver] downhill and was able to get him stopped.
"There was traffic coming — a school bus and other cars. It seemed like forever before another person showed up, but that was within two or three minutes. And two or three minutes after that, EMS showed up; awesome response time.
"I was doing CPR on him and he gasped for breath. It was, 'Come on, fight for it! Fight for it!'
"He never did come around while we were there, but he made it and we checked up on him and he was conscious the next day. We're good friends now."
Webb also was a combat lifesaver in the U.S. Army and a volunteer fireman, so his training helped him do what was necessary to save that other driver's life. But he says he believes — he hopes — just about any truck driver would do the same.
"If there's an accident out there, like they said, the first ones on the scene are often truck drivers. And when it comes to something like a heart attack, seconds count," he told Fleet Owner.
Baker and Freiburger agreed, but pointed out that not everyone makes that decision to act in such a moment as they faced. "A lot of cars were just driving by when I was there — that bothered me," Freiburger noted.
The Highway Hero award comes with a trophy, ring, and $5,000 cash. "Never in my wildest dreams," Webb said of winning the award and any expectation of thanks or recognition for what he did. "I was just happy [the other driver] was alive," he added.