The finalists for Goodyear’s 25th annual North America Highway Hero Award have been announced, honoring truck drivers who make unnoticed, life-saving rescues on the job.
This year’s four finalists are Rick Tower, of Yreka, CA.; Richard Filiczkowski, of Bountiful, UT; the late David Virgoe, of Innisfil, ON; and Ronnie Greene, of Regina, NM.
Virgoe, a driver for Wilburn Archer Trucking, swerved his empty tanker truck into a ditch to avoid three street-racing cars, rather than allowing his truck to slam into oncoming traffic across the median. He was killed before he could be transported to the hospital, and was hailed as a hero by witnesses and Ontario police, who said his split-second decision saved the lives of countless others.
Tower, a driver for Earl Bryant Trucking, was on his way home on Highway 96 near Horse Creek, CA when a car left the roadway, landing in the Klamath River. Tower jumped into the river and swam to the car, eventually getting the car door open and pulling to shore the driver, an 82-year old woman, who was able to escape the crash with only a broken ankle and slight hypothermia.
Filiczkowski, a driver for C.R. England Inc., was resting in the sleeper compartment when his wife Janet, driving the rig, alerted him to an accident ahead. A man had driven his car into a pond along I-90 near Plankinton, SD, and Filiczkowski ran into the pond along with two other men, trying to open the stuck car doors before they were able to get the rear hatch open and carry out the man’s 8-year old daughter. The three men worked to free the girl’s father, whose legs were lodged under the steering column. After 10 minutes, Filiczkowski was able to pull the man out of the car, but it was too late.
Greene, a driver for A. Passmore & Sons, was en route to Albuquerque on U.S. 84 near Espanola, NM when he saw a pregnant woman attacked and run over by a pickup truck driven by her boyfriend. Greene ran to the injured woman and helped her to her feet, while the boyfriend tried three more times to run over Greene and the woman, killing an engineer, Michael Rutkowski, who had also left his vehicle to help the woman. Greene took the woman to safety in his truck cab while the pickup fled the area.
“Each year, we are amazed by truck drivers from the United States and Canada, who put their lives on the line to help others. On this 25th anniversary of the Goodyear Highway Hero program, we truly are in awe of these brave men and women who travel our highways,” said Steve McClellan, vp for commercial tire systems for Goodyear.
The winner will be announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville on March 27th, and receive a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond, plaque and a specially designed ring, while the other finalists will receive a $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond and a plaque.