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Goodyear announces finalists for annual Highway Hero award

AKRON, Ohio, -- Four drivers have been named finalists in Goodyear's North America Highway Hero Award some battli...

AKRON, Ohio, — Four drivers have been named finalists in Goodyear’s North America Highway Hero Award some battling flames to pull victims to safety and one driver saving a mother and her baby from oncoming traffic as they lay on a dangerous turnpike.

Truck drivers from Casselberry, Fla.; Ashford, Ala.; Conover, Ohio; and North Troy, Vt., have been named finalists for trucking’s most prestigious award for heroism.

“In this, the Goodyear Highway Hero Award’s 23rd year, it was especially difficult to select just four truck drivers who placed themselves in harm’s way to save someone else,” said Steve McClellan, vice-president for commercial tire systems for Goodyear.

Journalists from the trucking industry are now voting on the drivers, who will be introduced March 23 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. One driver will be named the 2005 winner at the Truck Writers of North America annual banquet and receive a US$10,000 savings bond and a specially designed ring.

The 2005 nominees are:

Michael Knott of Casselberry, Fla. who saved an injured woman and her baby daughter from oncoming traffic as they lay on a turnpike in October. Knott said he came upon a disabled car that partially blocked the left and center lanes, and he saw a woman lying on the road. The woman had lost control of her car and was carrying the baby across the highway when they were struck by a car, bouncing off the hood. The baby was found lying on her back in the median. The victims were taken to the hospital and were in critical, but stable, condition.

Douglas Crawford of Ashford, Ala., a driver saved the life of another truck driver after seeing two trucks collide. Crawford watched a northbound truck cross the grass median and into the southbound lanes where it collided with another truck. Both trucks exploded into flames. Crawford used a fire extinguisher to battle the fire and yelled for the driver, who was injured but able to respond. Crawford told the man to grab him around his neck and he pulled him from the burning cab by his shoulders. Crawford found a safe area in the ditch, and moments later, the tractor exploded into flames.

Danny R. Wallen of Conover, Ohio was traveling south on Interstate 65 in Nashville, Tenn. when he saw a traffic accident where a stalled car was struck by a sport-utility vehicle. Wallen stopped his truck and ran to the burning car with his fire extinguisher. He was joined by another truck driver and a pedestrian in the rescue attempt. Wallen and the passerby pulled and carried a male driver from the flames. The other truck driver assisted the woman passenger.

The woman was screaming that her “baby” remained in the car. Wallen and the other truck driver returned to the burning car to find her 17-year-old daughter trapped in the backseat and screaming for help. They desperately tried to free her, but to no avail. A Nashville police officer arrived and quickly moved the two men away from the car. Suddenly, the gas tank exploded, fueling the fire out of control. The parents and the driver of the SUV were taken to separate hospitals; Wallen was treated for minor burns on his arms.

Sen. Robert A. Starr of North Troy, Vt., a driver and owner of Starr’s Transportation was travelling east on Highway 40 near Trois Rivieres, Que. when the road collapsed, opening a massive crevice that crossed the four-lane road. Starr was following a small car when its brake lights came on. The car hit the caving pavement and spun out of control. His truck’s steer tires “blew off the rims” and the sinking roadway ripped the fuel tanks and drive axles from the frame.

The state senator’s truck burst into flames and slid out of control on its frame rails. It stopped about 20 feet from the wrecked car. Starr jumped from his burning truck, ran to the car and saw a woman trapped inside. Diesel fuel and oil from his truck surrounded the car. Realizing that he only had seconds before the car burst into flames, he rushed to open the driver’s door, which was jammed shut. He managed to pry the passenger door open, pulled the woman out and carried her to safety, just before the car caught fire.

For more on the program, go to

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