Goodyear selects 29th Highway Hero Award finalists

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has named the finalists for its 29th North America Highway Hero Award.

Finalists include an Ohio truck driver who positioned himself between a woman and a gun-wielding attacker; an Ontario driver who pulled a motorist from a car minutes before it exploded; a Minnesota driver who came to the aid of an elderly couple trapped in a car during a raging snowstorm; and an Ohio driver who rescued a trapped motorist whose car had plunged into a pond.

These professional truck drivers—John Crozman of Albertville MN; Melville Farnell of Shelburne, Ontario, Canada; John Neumeier of Russia OH; and Mike Schiotis of Seville OH—were named finalists for the award:

•Crozman drives for Long Haul Trucking. While driving down a rest stop access road near Summit SD in the middle of a severe snowstorm, he noticed a candle flickering inside a car parked on the side of the highway. Fighting sub-zero winds, Crozman walked to the car and found an elderly couple inside. Ill-equipped for the dangerous weather, they had been trapped in the car for more than four hours. Crozman led the shivering man and woman to his truck and let them spend the night in his warm sleeper cab. The next day, he made sure they were safe and their car was rescued before continuing along his route.

•Farnell is a driver for Tupling Farms Produce Inc. He was making a delivery May 13, 2011, when a car traveling in the opposite direction veered into the path of his truck and slammed into it head-on. The impact caused Farnell’s tractor-trailer to jackknife. Diesel fuel began leaking onto the highway. Though shaken, Farnell approached the car, which had come to a stop in a ditch, and observed a semi-conscious male in the driver’s seat. Farnell, who weights 165 lbs., broke the driver’s side window and pulled the much heavier motorist to safety. Minutes later, the car exploded.

•Neumeier drives for Bohman Trucking. He was loading his milk delivery truck around 9 pm Nov 14, 2011, when a car driving down a nearby road missed a curve and plunged into an eight-foot-deep pond. As the car began to sink, Neumeier looked to see if anyone was inside, and he could see the driver’s cell phone light. Knowing he had little time to waste, he grabbed a large wrench, dove into the pond, and beat on the driver’s side window until it broke. Neumeier pulled the driver, a 65-year-old man, out by his feet and hauled him to shore. The man was taken away by ambulance.

•Schiotis is a driver for Panther Expedited Services Inc. He was driving to his destination Nov 1, 2011, in Pennsylvania when he saw a woman walking with a man close behind her. Thinking they were injured, he slowed down and observed that the man was pointing a gun at the woman. Schiotis stopped his truck, and the woman began pounding on his door, screaming, “Help me! He’s going to kill me!” Schiotis jumped out of his truck and positioned himself between the woman, who was bleeding from the head, and her assailant. He helped the woman into his rig and decided to take her to the next truckstop.

The gun-carrying man got back in his car and began to follow Schiotis’ truck, which continued along the Interstate instead of stopping. Schiotis notified the Pennsylvania State Highway Patrol, then used his CB radio to tell other truckers in the area about what was transpiring. Another driver, who was behind Schiotis’ 18-wheeler, heard him and decided to help. Together, they drove side-by-side, weaving back and forth to prevent the gunman from closing in on Schiotis’ tractor. This gave troopers time to catch up with the man and apprehend him.

Trucking industry journalists are voting on the Highway Hero finalists, who will be featured March 22 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville KY at the Truck Writers of North America annual banquet. The driver who is named 2011 Goodyear North America Highway Hero will receive a specially designed ring, a plaque, and a cash award. Each of the other finalists will receive a plaque and a cash award.

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