LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Derrick Harris, a driver for Schneider, was named the 21st annual Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the Mid-America Truck Show last week.
Harris a Virginia truck driver who saved the life of an individual deliberately set on fire, then helped police locate and arrest the person charged with the hideous crime. Derrick Harris, a driver for Schneider National Carriers, accepted the award and a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond during a special ceremony.
On Nov. 12, 2003, Harris had just left the Richmond, Va. area with a load that was headed to Knoxville, Tenn., when he noticed a fire near the side of the road. Realizing it was actually a person on fire, he drove to the person, stopped and secured his truck, then grabbed a blanket and cooler of water. He extinguished the fire by wrapping the person in the blanket, then soaked it with water for more comfort for the burn victim.
Once the individual was down and comfortable, Harris ran back to his truck, grabbed his fire extinguisher and put out a fire that had started in some surrounding trees. While extinguishing the fire, he noticed a container that smelled like kerosene. Harris stayed with the victim, trying to keep him conscious and comfortable while he called for help on his cell phone and awaited emergency response.
Based on comments from the burn victim and other observations in the area, Harris suggested to the responding local police that it appeared someone had deliberately set the man on fire. With this information, police began searching the woods, and found a suspect within three hours. The suspect admitted the next day to setting the other man on fire. Though the victim suffered burns over 60 per cent of his body, Harris’ quick actions helped save his life, and were integral in finding the responsible party.
“It’s a case of being in the right place at the right time,” Harris said. “When I first saw the flames, I thought it was a brush fire. Then I noticed the fire was moving, and I realized it was a person. It seemed like something from TV or the movies, like it was a stunt man on fire.
“Seeing someone suffer like that was terrible… something you wouldn’t wish upon anyone. For me, stopping to help was simply a reaction. I really didn’t think about what I was doing until it was all over. I just did what I had to do.”
Harris, a driver with Schneider since October 2002, was also recognized by his employer with Schneider’s Presidential Citation Award.
“Other motorists may have continued on their way, but Derrick Harris stopped to help someone in need. Because of that decision, a life was saved and another person was apprehended for the crime. For this, Derrick has earned the right to be called a hero,” said Steve McClellan, Goodyear’s vice-president of commercial tire systems.
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. Harris was selected along with three other truck drivers as finalists for the 2003 award.
Other finalists included:
* David Dunham, Fitchburg, MA – Driving in New Mexico on a cross-country run, Dunham came to the aid of a fellow truck driver, whose truck had crashed in the median area of Interstate 40. In darkness, Dunham pulled the injured driver from his burning rig, ignoring his own injuries sustained by climbing over sharp rocks to reach the victim. Dunham was employed at the time of the rescue by Ronnie Dowdy Inc., based in Batesville, AR. He now drives for U.S. Express.
* Joe Sines, Horse Shoe Run, WV – When a van up ahead of him on I-77 in West Virginia veered out of control and tumbled five times, he quickly stopped his truck and ran to offer help. Sines was able to free two young girls from the crumpled vehicle, cutting away their seat belts and comforting them, while calling for emergency assistance on his cellular phone. The driver, the mother of the girls, was seriously injured, and died a short time later. Sines is a driver for Schneider National Carriers, based in Green Bay, WI.
* Anne Spriggs, Willow Springs, MO – She and her driving partner with CRST Van Ex, Ronnie Grider, had just finished refueling at a truck stop near Paduca, KY, when a car stopped in front of her truck. A woman jumped out and waved for help. Spriggs set the brakes, jumped out of the truck and followed the woman to her car, finding a five-year-old girl – unconscious and with her tongue rolled back, blocking her airway. A former nurse, Spriggs recognized the symptoms of a grand mal seizure, so she moved the girl’s tongue forward and began administering CPR. The girl caught her breath, and Spriggs continued with CPR until an ambulance arrived to take the girl to a nearby hospital.
To nominate a professional truck driver for the 2004 Goodyear Highway Hero Award, visit www.highwayhero.net.
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