When he came upon another trucker who had fallen from a burning tanker truck that was hanging over the side of a freeway overpass, Ivan Vasovic sprang into action.
For risking his life to save the driver, Vasovic today accepted the 31st Goodyear North America Highway Hero Award during the Mid-America Trucking Show.
He received $5,000, a trophy and a ring from Goodyear. The three other finalists, Tim Horton, Brian Dunn and Scott Rosenberg, received $2,500 each.
Vasovic of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., was in his truck in Los Angeles, last October when he witnessed a double tanker truck hit the concrete divider of a freeway overpass, careen off a wall and slam into a guard rail. Its tanks, full of diesel, ripped open and the truck came to a stop with its tractor and first tanker hanging over the side of the overpass.
The truck’s driver was trapped inside when the diesel ignited. The driver, now on fire, kicked out a window, slid down the truck and fell to the ground, breaking an arm and leg. By that point, the suspended truck was engulfed in flames with clouds of smoke billowing from it.
Vasovic and another bystander tried to pull the injured driver to safety, but due to the intense heat, they could only drag him a few yards at a time. Vasovic dashed to his truck and poured water on himself, enabling him to drag the badly injured driver to safety. Moments later, the entire burning tanker truck crashed to the ground.
“He literally put himself in harm’s way to save another person’s life,” said Gary Medalis, Goodyear marketing director. “Ivan’s decision to interject himself into this deadly scenario is a powerful example of the selflessness exhibited by professional truck drivers.”
Dunn, of Knoxville, Tenn., was driving in Oklahoma when he saw a car crash through a guard rail and land on its roof in the middle of the road. He ran to the car as its engine caught fire. Running back to his truck to grab his fire extinguisher, Dunn heard a child crying. He spotted a 2-year-old boy who was trapped in the back seat of the burning car.
Braving the flames, Dunn yanked on the car’s door until it gave way, allowing him to rescue the child. Dunn ran back to his car for his fire extinguisher while other bystanders tried to rescue the boy’s mother, but she died as a result of the crash.
Horton, of Sheridan, Ark., was driving outside Tuscaloosa, Ala., when a car lost control and drove into a 35-foot-deep ravine, landing upside down in a creek bed. The driver, a teenager, was trapped inside and suffered a large cut on his head.
Horton flagged down a driver, who happened to be a volunteer firefighter, and the two found the teenager alive, but bleeding heavily. Horton cut the seat belt and pulled him from the car and the two men stabilized the teenager’s condition.
Rosenberg, from Isanti, Minn., was driving near Stillwater, Minn., when he spotted a pickup truck upside down in a pond, with steam rising from it. Two other men arrived and tried in vain to open the door and free the driver. Rosenberg, pulling a trailer with a boom crane used for loading heavy concrete products, positioned his crane and was able to flip the pickup over and rescue the driver.