Goodyear Highway Hero finalists for 2008 named

March 5, 2009
Nikolay Zashev of Franklin Park IL, Tihomir Tanev of Schiller Park IL, Willie Wilson of Santa Clara CA, Roy Hackett of Nashville TN, and Jorge Orozco Sanchez of Firestone CO were named finalists for the 26th annual Goodyear North America Highway Hero Award for trucking heroism.

As finalists for the 26th annual Goodyear North America Highway Hero Award, a team of two professional truck drivers from Illinois reacted to a collision with an out-of-control van by pulling the unconscious driver to safety after the crash. A California truck driver noticed a glow off the freeway and followed it to find a car in flames and a driver trapped inside. A Tennessee truck driver made a quick decision to pull a man from a disabled car seconds before it was fully engulfed in flames. A Colorado driver hauling grain was shocked when his truck was hit head-on in a fiery collision, but then had the presence of mind to save two young lives.

Nikolay Zashev of Franklin Park IL, Tihomir Tanev of Schiller Park IL, Willie Wilson of Santa Clara CA, Roy Hackett of Nashville TN, and Jorge Orozco Sanchez of Firestone CO were named finalists for this award for trucking heroism.

For the 2008 award, finalists are:

•Nikolay Zashev and Tihomir Tanev are contract drivers for FedEx Ground, and based in the Chicago area. They are co-finalists for the award. These team drivers were en route to Sacramento CA on Interstate 80 in Iowa the evening of January 21, 2008, when a large van spun out of control in the eastbound lanes of I-80, crossed the median, and headed for their westbound rig. The tractor-trailer was struck on the left side, turning it and pushing it into the median, through the eastbound lanes, and into a ditch on the other side. Zashev, driving at the time, was able to keep the tractor and set of double-trailers upright, and avoided contact with other vehicles.

The truck drivers were shaken up but not injured. They noticed the van that had struck their truck was now resting in the westbound lanes and on fire. Zashev and Tanev exited their truck and rushed to the van to check on the driver. They found a man, unconscious and bleeding, and pulled him out of the van and into the snow. Soon the van was engulfed in flames. Emergency personnel arrived on the scene and cared for the injured driver.

•Willie Wilson, a driver for UPS, was traveling November 7, 2008, along I-80 in Yolo County CA when he noticed a glow beside the freeway. Unsure of origin of the fire, he stopped his truck and ran over with a fire extinguisher. He found a vehicle that appeared to have come off the freeway, rolled over, and came to rest on its tires. The engine compartment was on fire, and he noticed a driver inside.

The driver was unconscious, but as Wilson began pulling him from the burning vehicle, he came to and yelled for help. Wilson was able to drag the injured driver to the side of the nearby highway ramp as the Davis Fire Department arrived on the scene. Emergency personnel fought the flames while others began on-site medical care for the man.

•Roy Hackett, a truck driver for United Parcel Service (UPS), was driving on Interstate 75 near Chattanooga on April 22, 2008, when he heard over his CB radio that a car up ahead was on fire. As he approached the disabled car pulled over on the highway shoulder, he grabbed his truck’s fire extinguisher and ran to the car. The only occupant was a man wedged between the steering wheel and the seat, announcing to Hackett that he recently had hip surgery and was not able to move well on his own. Flames and smoke were beginning to pour from the car.

With another driver helping, Hackett dragged the man out of the car, then pulled him 50 to 60 yards away to sit upon a guardrail. Soon the car was burned to a skeleton. Within 5-10 minutes, police, fire and ambulance services arrived. Hackett stayed with the driver until emergency personnel took over.

•Jorge Orozco Sanchez, an owner-operator, was hauling grain October 28, 2008, on Highway 392 north of Greeley CO, when an SUV suddenly crossed the center line and crashed head-on into the tractor-trailer rig. After impact, the truck pushed the SUV backward down the road about 200 feet. As the vehicles stopped moving, a shaken Orozco Sanchez 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, and a woman in front who was not moving. Working with a passer-by who used a fire extinguisher to fight the flames, Orozco Sanchez rescued the two girls.

One of the youngsters was extracted quickly, but the fire was getting bigger and the smoke was so thick he had trouble seeing into the vehicle. He was finally able to remove the other girl, then the truck’s saddle fuel tanks ruptured and exploded, creating an inferno. The 27-year-old mother died in the crash.

Orozco Sanchez sustained burns on his arms and was taken to a nearby hospital. The fire reduced the cab and the SUV to rubble, along with burning the side of a nearby building.

Trucking industry journalists are voting on the finalists, who will be featured March 19 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville KY. One driver will be named 2008’s Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the Truck Writers of North America Annual Banquet and receive a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond, a plaque, and a specially designed ring. The other finalists will receive a $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond and plaque.

Go to for more on the program.

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