Four Highway Hero finalists confront danger while on duty

As finalists for Goodyear's 24th annual North America Highway Hero Award, three professional truck drivers battled flames to pull victims from burning vehicles in Arizona accidents. Another driver finalist came to the rescue of a Minneapolis (MN) Metro Transit police officer attacked by a suspect in a drug deal.

The finalists are Elizabeth Pavlista of Miami AZ, Edward Regener of Perres CA, Richard Miner of Phoenix AZ, and Marlon Marum of Burnsville MN. They will be introduced March 22 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville KY. One will be named the 2006 Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the Truck Writers of North America annual banquet and receive a $10,000 United States Savings Bond, a plaque, and a specially designed ring. The other finalists will receive a $5,000 US. Savings Bond and a plaque.

  • Pavlista, a driver for Claypool AZ-based B J Cecil Trucking Inc, was hauling a load of rock on an end-dump truck and traveling north Aug 8, 2006, on State Route 177 near Kearney AZ, when a car passed her, lost control, hit a guardrail, and rolled down an embankment. She grabbed a fire extinguisher, yelled for a nearby elderly man to assist her, climbed over the guardrail, and helped the man to where the car rested upside down and on fire. Pavlista struggled to pull a woman from the burning car and helped the man operate the fire extinguisher. Just as the car fuel tank exploded, they managed to pull the woman from the flames. Pavlista stayed with the woman till state police and firefighters arrived. The woman was airlifted by helicopter, but she later died.

  • Regener, a driver for Fontana CA-based FedEx Freight, saved the lives of three men in a three-vehicle collision Nov 4, 2006, on Interstate 10 near Goodyear AZ. A car traveling westbound lost control, crossed the median, and continued in the eastbound lanes. The car collided with a pickup truck with such force that the two vehicles struck Regener's truck, which was carrying hazardous, corrosive materials. Fire erupted in the pickup truck and in the cab and first trailer of the truck. Regener's shipment accelerated the fire and added to the toxicity of the smoke. He worked to remove two men from the car and a man and woman from the pickup truck before the fire spread. Regener was transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation, and a passenger in the pickup truck later died from her injuries.

  • Miner, a driver for Duluth GA-based Saia Motor Freight, saved a young woman's life when he was traveling east Sept 28, 2006, on Interstate 10 near Phoenix. He was following another tractor-trailer and car when the truck pulled into the passing lane and forced the car into the median. The car rolled several times and landed upside down, trapping the woman in her car. Miner called for help and then saw flames coming from the rear of the car. He used his fire extinguisher to put out the fire and managed to pry open the car door and pull the woman to safety. He stayed with the severely injured woman for nearly 20 minutes until emergency crews arrived.

  • Marum, a driver for Con-way Freight from an Eagan MN terminal, was making deliveries Oct 6, 2006, in downtown Minneapolis when he witnessed a Metro Transit police officer under attack by a man attempting to wrest control of the officer's weapons. The officer said he had observed two men allegedly engaged in an illegal drug transaction. When the officer approached the men, one became unruly, and they struggled as the officer used his stun gun to no effect. Marum pulled to the curb and sounded his air horn to draw attention. He then ran to help the officer, who was pinned to the ground by the suspect inside a glass bus shelter. Marum grabbed the man's arms even after the stun gun was used again. Marum, the officer, and the suspect all received the shock. Finally, the officer regained control of his weapons and the suspect.

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