Highway Hero finalists named

George Lantzy, of Turtle Creek, Pa.; Jesse Lee Seal, of Alma, Ark.; Stephen Page, of Gloucester, Mass.; and Junichi Shimizu, of Gladstone, Ore., were named finalists today, March 5, for the 2009 Goodyear North America Highway Hero award.

Trucking industry journalists vote on the finalists, who will be featured March 25 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. The winner will receive a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond, a plaque and a specially designed ring. The other finalists will receive a $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond and a plaque.

“These four individuals represent the thousands of professional truck drivers who work every day across North America. Each year, this program offers an opportunity for recognition of those who put their lives on the line to help others,” said Joseph Copeland, vice president for commercial tire systems for The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

On March 12, 2009, Lantzy, a driver for Fubar Trucking, was driving on Highway 22 near Weirton, W.V., when he noticed a car along the highway shoulder that was slowly drifting into traffic. As he drove closer, he saw an elderly woman slumped over the steering wheel, and the car was headed toward a potential accident on the busy highway.

Lantzy maneuvered his rig in front to allow the car to contact the rear of his trailer, creating an impromptu roadblock and easing the woman’s car away from danger. The driver, who had suffered a heart attack, made a full recovery.

Page, a driver for Pit Bull Trucking, on July 14, 2009, was driving on I-80 near Clearfield, Pa., when he spotted a fire in the woods alongside the roadway. He and another driver ran into the woods to find the burning wreckage of a double-unit rig that had gone nearly 1,500 feet off the highway.

Page, the other driver and two more truckers were able to remove the injured driver before the tractor and trailer were destroyed by fire. Page stayed with the injured driver, talking with him as he drifted in and out of consciousness. The injured driver suffered severe burns.

On Oct. 7, 2009, Seal, a driver for PDP Unlimited, was driving on U.S. I-530 near Little Rock, Ark. Another truck ahead of him abruptly swerved left, went across the median and the opposite direction lanes, coming to rest on an embankment. As this happened, the truck lost a fuel tank, which caught fire. 

Seal stopped his truck, grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran across the lanes to help. After he extinguished the burning fuel tank, he opened the driver’s door of the burning truck, put out the fire and removed the injured driver.

Shimizu, a driver for Chipman Relocations, on Feb. 20, 2009, drove on Highway 12 near Fairfield, Calif. He witnessed a vehicle cross the centerline of the road and strike a car in front of his truck. The auto spun into the ditch, and the other vehicle hit his tractor twice before bursting into flames.

Shimizu called for assistance and then headed to the burning vehicle. He punched out the glass to pull the driver free of the car, with the help of another motorist. Running to the other car, he saw the driver was dead, but two injured passengers were inside. The passengers were removed, and Shimizu used his fire extinguisher to keep the blaze under control until help arrived. The three rescued individuals had extensive injuries, but all survived.

In its 27th year, 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. For more on the program, go to www.goodyear.com/truck/news/hero.html.