LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The recipient of Goodyear’s 24th North America Highway Hero award, Edward A. Regener of Perris, Calif., earned the honour by escaping one fire and jumping into another to save the lives of two men trapped in their burning car. Regener was selected from four finalists and presented with the award at the TWNA Industry Awards Banquet held at the Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville, Ky. Mar. 22.
The 43-year-old truck driver with FedEx Freight was headed east on I-10 Nov. 4, when he said he saw a westbound car headed his way across the median. At the same time, a pickup truck carrying an engaged couple was attempting to pass Regener.
The speeding car collided with the pickup, pushing it into Regener’s truck. The car, resting atop the guardrail, caught fire.
Fire erupted in the pickup and quickly spread to Regener’s cab and the truck’s first trailer, which contained drums of battery acid. With intense flames at the driver’s door, Regener exited the passenger door and ran to the blazing car that caused the accident.
Regener struggled to open the car doors, which were pressurized by the heat. He finally dislodged the passenger door until the fire forced him to the driver’s side. The car’s contents – the dash, back seat – “were mashed together.” The driver and another man were both in the passenger seat, “wedged in among the broken seats and smashed contents.”
Kneeling in the car, braving the intense heat and breathing thick smoke, Regener said, “I ripped the inside of the car apart and started throwing pieces outside until I could reach the two men. And then one by one, I handed them to other motorists.”
Police said alcohol and excessive speed contributed to the accident. Regener’s hazardous materials load – paint was in the second trailer – helped the fire spread faster in his truck.
David Cooper of Buckeye, Ariz., who also was passing Regener’s truck and saw the car heading across the median, stopped his vehicle ahead of the accident and ran back to assist the pickup driver and his fiance.
Cooper, who thought Regener had perished in the fiery crash, said he was overwhelmed to find him alive and talking with Arizona state police officers. Regener was treated and released at a local hospital for smoke inhalation.
Regener, the second FedEx driver to be selected for the top award, received a $10,000 US Savings Bond and a specially designed ring.
“Too often, we only hear criticism about trucks and drivers, but that’s not our view of the trucking industry,” said Peter Christoffersen, general manager of marketing for Goodyear commercial tire systems. “We know that most drivers are hard working, safe and courteous. And in the cases of Ed Regener and the three Highway Hero finalists, these drivers stopped to help others without regard for their own lives. They’re all heroes in our book.”
Founded by Goodyear in 1983, the Highway Hero program recognizes professional truck drivers and the often unnoticed, life-saving rescues and roadside assistance they provide as their jobs take them across North America.
The other Highway Hero finalists included:
* Elizabeth Pavlista of Miami, Ariz., driver for B.J. Cecil Trucking, who rescued a woman from her burning car after it rolled down an embankment on Arizona 177 on Aug. 8. The woman died from her injuries.
* Richard Miner of Phoenix, driver for Saia Motor Freight, who saved a woman’s life when her car crashed, rolled and burned in the Interstate 10 median near Phoenix on Sept. 28.
* Marlon Marum of Burnsville, Minn., driver for Con-way Freight, who saved a Metro Transit police officer who was attacked by a drug suspect in downtown Minneapolis on Oct. 6.
For more on Goodyear’s Highway Hero program and to nominate a truck driver for the 25th anniversary of the award, go to www.goodyear.com/truck/whatsnew/hero_overview.html.
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