A driver for B J Cecil Trucking Inc of Claypool AZ is among the finalists in Goodyear’s 24th annual North America Highway Hero Award that recognizes professional truck drivers and the often unnoticed, life-saving rescues and roadside assistance they provide.
The Cecil driver, Elizabeth Pavlista of Miami AZ, battled flames to pull a victim from a burning vehicle. Other finalists performed similar heroic actions, two involving highway accidents and another coming to the aid of a policeman. They include Edward Regener of Perres CA, a driver for FedEx Freight; Richard Miner of Phoenix AZ, a driver for Saia Motor Freight; and Marlon Marum of Burnsville MN, a driver for Con-way Freight.
“Lives were saved this year because of the actions of these three men and this woman," said Steve McClellan, vice-president, Goodyear commercial tire systems. “Truck drivers are the true American heroes. They have become the eyes and ears of our highways. And when we’ve needed help, they stopped and put themselves in harm’s way.”
Pavlista was hauling a daily load of rock on an end-dump truck near Kearney AZ when a car passed her, lost control, hit a guardrail, and rolled down an embankment. Pavlista grabbed a fire extinguisher, yelled for an elderly man to assist her, climbed over the guardrail, and helped the man to where the car rested upside down and on fire.
Risking her own life, the six-year truck driver struggled to pull a large woman from the burning car. Pavlista helped the man operate the fire extinguisher amid popping sounds coming from the car. Just as the car fuel tank exploded, they managed to pull the woman farther from the flames. Pavlista stayed with the woman, despite the intense heat coming from the blaze. When state police arrived at the scene, Pavlista was told to move her truck away from the rising flames. The truck driver said she didn’t want to leave the woman, but was forced back to her truck. The victim was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital, but news reports said she later died.
Pavlista, who drives by the spot everyday, said she’s constantly reminded of that day and feels sad that the woman succumbed to her injuries.
Regener saved the lives of three men in a three-vehicle collision on Interstate 10 near Goodyear AZ after an accident was triggered when a car crossed the median and collided with a pickup truck. The two vehicles also struck Regener’s truck. A fire erupted in the pickup truck and in the cab and first trailer of the truck. Regener worked to remove two men from the car and a man and woman from the pickup truck before the fire spread farther.
A police officer who responded to the scene said Regener was crucial in helping him remove the large male pickup driver and away from the flames. Regener was later transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation. A passenger in the pickup truck later died from her injuries.
Miner, the third finalist, saved a young woman’s life when he was traveling east on Interstate 10 near Phoenix, following another tractor-trailer and car when the truck pulled into the passing lane. The car was forced into the median, rolled several times, and landed upside down. Miner was the only person to stop to offer assistance.
The woman was trapped in her car. The roof of the car had collapsed onto the seats and the doors were jammed closed. The truck driver returned to his cab and called for help. At that time, he saw flames coming from the rear of the car. Miner ran back to the car and used his fire extinguisher to put out the fire, pried open the car door, and pulled the woman to safety.
He stayed with the severely injured woman for nearly 20 minutes, cradling her head and talking with her, until emergency crews arrived.
Marum was making deliveries in downtown Minneapolis where he witnessed a Metro Transit police officer under attack by a man who was attempting to get control of the officer’s stun and handguns. Marum pulled to the curb and sounded his air horn to draw attention to the altercation. He then ran to help the officer, who was pinned to the ground by the suspect inside a glass bus shelter. Marum grabbed the man’s arms even after the stun gun was used. Marum, the officer, and the suspect all received the shock. Finally, the officer was able to regain control of his weapons and the suspect.
Journalists from the trucking industry are now voting on the four finalists, who will be introduced March 22 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville KY. One driver will be named the 2006 Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the Truck Writers of North America annual banquet and receive a $10,000 US Savings Bond, a plaque and a specially designed ring; the other finalists will receive a $5,000 Savings Bond and a plaque.