Junichi Shimizu poses with his award plaque shortly after winning the Goodyear North America Highway Hero title. Shimizu saved the lives of three people involved in a firey traffic accident in February 2009 to earn the award.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Oregon truck driver Junichi Shimizu, who helped save the lives of three people involved in a fiery traffic accident, has taken the title of Goodyear North America Highway Hero.
Shimizu accepted the award and a $10,000 US Savings Bond during the 27th instalment of the award series at Mid-America Trucking Show last week.
On Feb. 20, 2009, Shimizu, a driver for Chipman Relocations, was driving westbound on Highway 12 near Fairfield, Calif., 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 deceased, 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, of Gladstone, Ore., has also been recognized by the California Highway Patrol with a certificate of commendation for his role in the lifesaving effort associated with the 2009 crash.
“In this terrible accident, one driver perished, and our thoughts and prayers go out to this family,” said Joseph Copeland, Goodyear’s vice-president of commercial tire systems.
“But we also honour the quick actions and selflessness of Junichi Shimizu. Although his own rig was struck in this accident, he remained calm and immediately pulled his vehicle to a stop and called for 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, three lives were saved. For this, Junichi has earned the right to be called a hero.”
Shimizu was selected along with three other truck drivers as finalists for the 2009 award. Other finalists included: George Lantzy, of Turtle Creek, Pa., a driver for Fubar Trucking; Stephen Page, of Gloucester, Mass., a driver for Pit Bull Trucking; and Jesse Lee Seal, of Alma, Ark., a driver for PDP Unlimited.
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