AKRON, OHIO — A Hillsville driver will be among those honored during the Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) when the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company announces the winner of the 33rd Goodyear Highway Hero Award. The announcement is slated for March 31 in Louisville, Ky.
Finalists for the Highway Hero Award include a Hillsville driver who rescued a fellow trucker who had been ejected from his rig, a driver who used his truck to protect an injured police officer from oncoming traffic, and a driver who pulled a motorist from a flame-engulfed car. Established in 1983, the Award honors professional truck drivers who put themselves in harm’s way to help others.
“The Goodyear Highway Hero Award is the oldest and most prestigious honor of its kind,” said Gary Medalis, marketing director, Goodyear. “Goodyear is proud to recognize truck drivers who risk their own well-being to save people from dangerous situations.”
According to Cavanagh, he was near the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border when another tractor-trailer, which was pulling two trailers, pulled around him, swerved and hit a guardrail. The impact sent the vehicle off the road and it rolled down a steep hill. Cavanagh said he pulled off the road, called 911 and made his way down the hillside.
He said he could hear freight thumping against the walls of the trailers as it settled after the impact. He estimated the hillside was a 45-degree slant with rainfall making walking on the grass difficult. As Cavanagh got closer he found the driver hanging (by his belt) from the outside rear view mirror. He yelled to the driver that help was on the way.
“His shoulders were on the ground but everything else was up in the air,” said Cavanagh. “He was a big guy and I tried to steady him as best I could to ease him down to the ground. I looked up and saw three bystanders to my left videotaping with their cellphones.” He asked for help from the videographers to help ease the man to the ground (after cutting his belt to free him) to prevent further injuries. Cavanagh estimated the driver’s weight at more than 190 pounds.
After the first responders arrived, Cavanagh said he called the driver’s company to inform them of the accident and tell his family he was being flown out for treatment. (The helicopter landed beside Cavanagh’s parked truck.)
“The next day I called to find out how he was and they said he had a broken vertebrae,” Cavanagh said. “He did recover, although I don’t know if he went back to driving.” Cavanagh credited his instinct to help to training he received when he was a Boy Scout.
He said when he was 17, he was on the scene when a young girl was hit by a bus, suffering severe lacerations. Cavanagh’s first aid skills and his CPR training were put to the test that day. He said as the paramedics were loading her for transport she looked up at him and died. Cavanagh said it is something he cannot forget, and probably set his drive to help others because he’d like help if it was the other way around.
“I’ve seen a lot of accidents, cars rolling over and everything, but that was the worst day,” said Cavanagh. “I’m old school. I grew up by the moral to look out for one another.”
Here are this year’s two other Goodyear Highway Hero Award finalists and their stories:
•Dorian Cole, a driver from Los Angeles, Calif. Cole was driving through the Sylmar section of Los Angeles when he saw a Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle officer collide with another motorcyclist. The impact from the collision caused the officer to hit a concrete divider. To protect the injured officer from oncoming traffic, Cole positioned his tanker truck across several highway lanes. This also gave paramedics unimpeded access to the officer.
•Julian Kaczor, a driver from Utica, N.Y. Kaczor was driving through Jacksonville, Fla., when a car drove past him at a high rate of speed, nearly clipping his truck. The car crashed into a construction barrier and began to emit smoke. Kaczor ran to the car as it became engulfed in flames, which he tried to extinguish. As the fire intensified, he forced the car’s driver side door open, pulled the injured driver out of the vehicle, and dragged him to safety.
Trucking industry journalists will evaluate the finalists and select the Goodyear Highway Hero Award recipient. The finalist who is named will receive a special ring, a cash award and a congratulatory trophy. Each of the other finalists will receive a cash prize and other items.
“We look forward to honoring our Goodyear Highway Hero Award finalists for their acts of bravery and naming this year’s Goodyear Highway Hero Award winner during MATS,” said Medalis.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.