Highway Hero finalists defy roadside peril

March 10, 2005
Four professional truck drivers have been selected as finalists for the Goodyear North America Highway Hero Award.

Four professional truck drivers have been selected as finalists for the Goodyear North America Highway Hero Award. Journalists from the trucking industry are voting on the drivers, who will be introduced March 31 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville KY. One driver will be named the 2004 Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the Truck Writers of North America annual banquet.

For 2004, the finalists are:

•David Tucker of La Grande OR, a driver for Seneca Foods Corp, based in Marion NY. Tucker saved the life of a female California Highway Patrol officer, who was brutally attacked during a traffic stop.

Tucker was heading south on Highway 99 in the Los Angeles area Dec 2, 2003, when he came upon patrol officer Wendy Weidenman, who had stopped a motorist for speeding near Turlock. Weidenman said she noticed the motorist had been drinking and conducted a field sobriety test.

While she was handcuffing him, the man began hitting her in the face. The attacker was standing over her and beating her in the face when Tucker stopped his truck. Seeing Tucker—an imposing figure—the man stopped the attack and fled in his sport-utility vehicle.

After an all-day manhunt, the attacker was arrested that evening and booked into the county jail on five felony and three misdemeanor charges. The officer’s face was cut and bruised and her teeth were damaged. She returned to duty and credited Tucker with saving her life.

•Jose Ogas Jr of Fayetteville NC, a driver for TMC Transportation, based in Des Moines IA. Ogas, applying his Army training with a combat lifesaving team, saved a man and his daughter from their burning car Dec 31, 2003.

Ogas was driving on Interstate 70 in Pennsylvania when he noticed the car in front of him swerving over the yellow line into oncoming traffic. The car eventually left the roadway and landed upside down. Ogas immediately called for help and grabbed his fire extinguisher.

The vehicle’s engine was smoking and he saw a body inside the car. He heard crying and spotted a little girl in the back seat. Fearing the vehicle might explode, Ogas pleaded with bystanders to help him. One who had medical training told him he shouldn’t move the girl because of the risk involved.

As several men lifted the car, Ogas slid through the driver’s window, grabbed the girl’s legs, and pulled her out. She said she was dizzy, and that her father was still in the car. Ogas returned to the car, and again, the men lifted the car so he could crawl in to rescue the father. He got hold of the man by the shoulders and removed him, administering first aid until paramedics arrived.

•Pat Foraker of Quaker City OH, a driver for Transport Corp of America, based in Eagan MN. Foraker and his wife, Brenda, saved the lives of two women in a two-car crash April 15, 2004.

The Forakers were on their way to pick up a load in Greenville MI, when they arrived on the accident scene. The cars were smoking, and Pat and Brenda each ran to the separate vehicles. Brenda found an unconscious man and woman trapped in their car, and neither was breathing. She noticed a car seat in the backseat and began looking for a child. Unable to find the child, she held the woman’s chin high enough so that she could breathe.

Brenda finally had the woman tell her that her baby was staying with another family member. Pat discovered a conscious woman trapped in her car and comforted her until another motorist arrived and called for a life flight helicopter, two ambulances, and equipment to extract the passengers.

A volunteer fire unit showed up, and Pat operated the extraction machinery. He stayed with the woman until the helicopter took her to the hospital.

•Rick Dent of Diana TX, a driver for Groendyke Transport Inc, based in Enid OK. Dent saved the lives of a father and his two children July 14, 2004, on US 84 near Jena LA.

The family's car swerved to avoid hitting a deer, landed in a water-filled ditch, and began filling with water. Dent jumped out of his truck, ran to the ditch, and asked if they were OK.

The father yelled that they were trapped and that the car was sinking. Snakes were swimming everywhere, and the three-year-old girl was screaming. Dent swam to the car, but the doors and power windows were jammed.

The truck driver dislodged the door about 3 inches, but it was stuck. Suddenly, the girl screamed again, and in a burst of strength, Dent pulled the door off the car easily. He took the children to the water’s edge and returned for the father, whose foot was lodged under the dash. Dent dove underwater and freed the father’s foot, and then carried him to safety. He then called for help and wrapped the family in blankets.

Access this web site to learn more about the Highway Hero program.

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from staff and wire reports

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