#MATS: Goodyear crowns 2010 Highway Hero winner

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As if something straight from a Hollywood movie, the story behind this year’s Goodyear North America Highway Hero award included the winner pulling an unconscious driver from his car seconds before it was struck by an oncoming train.

Just after noon on Oct. 27, Tilden Curl, an Olympia, Wash.-based truck driver, was driving southbound on Highway 99 near Tulare, Calif., when a vehicle appeared to lose control and cross traffic, leaving the highway and finally coming to a stop with its front wheels lodged over the railroad tracks that run parallel to the highway.

Curl stopped his truck to check on the car and noticed a train was coming. An elderly woman exited the passenger side of the car, and Curl yelled for her to get clear of the tracks. He then noticed that the driver was unconscious and trapped inside. At first, the door couldn’t be opened, but Curl was able to squeeze his arm inside and unlock it. Working quickly, he was able to unfasten the man’s seatbelt and drag him out of the car and away from the area just seconds before the train collided with the stranded vehicle.

“We are grateful to Tilden Curl for his quick thinking and brave actions, which ultimately led two strangers to safety. This is a clear example of the selflessness and professionalism of many of today’s professional truck drivers, who are out on our highways every day to deliver the goods and services upon which we all depend,” said Joseph Copeland, Goodyear’s vice-president of commercial tire systems.

“Each of these finalists is a true Highway Hero, and their efforts to help others should be applauded. In honoring Tilden Curl, specifically, we acknowledge that he witnessed a dangerous situation and immediately pulled his truck to a stop as a way to provide help. He then reacted quickly and put himself in harm’s way, in order to help rescue strangers who were in peril. Because of that decision, lives were saved. For this, he has earned the right to be called a hero,” Copeland said.

Curl was selected from four finalists to receive the the 28th annual Goodyear North America Highway Hero award and a $10,000 US Savings Bond during last week’s Mid-America Trucking Show.

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.

Other finalists included Jaime Avitia of El Paso, Texas, a driver for Stagecoach Cartage; Bill Howard of Litchfield, Neb., a driver for Howard Transportation; and David Nelson of Orlando, Fla., a driver for Werner Enterprises.

To nominate a professional truck driver for the 2011 Goodyear Highway Hero Award, go to http://www.goodyear.com/truck/news/hero.html.

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