The 27th annual Goodyear North America Highway Hero is an Oregon truck driver who helped save the lives of three people involved in a fiery traffic accident, including one driver who was trapped in his burning vehicle. Junichi Shimizu accepted the award and a $10,000 US Savings Bond during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville KY recently.
On Feb 20, 2009, Shimizu, a driver for Chipman Relocations, was driving westbound on Highway 12 near Fairfield CA and witnessed a vehicle cross the centerline of the road and strike an automobile in front of his truck. The auto spun into the ditch, and the other vehicle then hit his tractor twice before bursting into flames.
Upon coming to a stop, Shimizu called for assistance and then headed to the vehicle that was in flames. Unable to open the driver's side door due to the damage, he told the driver to protect his face and he punched out the glass in order to pull the driver free of the car. Gaining help from another motorist, he was able to free the driver's foot, which was wedged under the dashboard, then carry the driver to safety. Running to the other car, he quickly assessed that the driver was dead, but there were two injured passengers inside. The passengers were removed, and Shimizu retrieved his fire extinguisher to keep the blaze under control until the local fire department arrived.
Shimizu, a Gladstone OR resident, also has been recognized by the California Highway Patrol with a certificate of commendation for his role in the life-saving effort associated with the 2009 crash.
Other finalists for the 2009 award were:
George Lantzy, of Turtle Creek PA, a driver for Fubar Trucking.
Stephen Page, of Gloucester MA, a driver for Pit Bull Trucking.
Jesse Lee Seal, of Alma AR, a driver for PDP Unlimited.