As finalists for Goodyear's 24th annual North America Highway Hero Award, three professional truck drivers battled flames to pull victims from their burning vehicles in as many Arizona accidents and one driver came to the rescue of a Minneapolis Metro Transit police officer who was attacked by a suspect in a drug deal.
Elizabeth Pavlista of Miami, Ariz.; Edward Regener of Perres, Calif.; Richard Miner of Phoenix; and Marlon Marum of Burnsville, Minn.; were recently named finalists for trucking's most prestigious award for heroism.
"Lives were saved this year because of the actions of these three men and this woman. We are indebted to truck drivers across the U.S. and Canada who keep America rolling and who are there for us in a time of need," said Steve McClellan, vice president for commercial tire systems for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.
"Truck drivers are the true American heroes. They have become the eyes and ears of our highways. And when we've needed help, they stopped and put themselves in harm's way," McClellan said.
Although it's not unusual for a woman truck driver to be a finalist for this award, having two drivers from one city--in this case, Phoenix--has never happened. Equally unique, three of the accidents occurred in one state--Arizona, he said.
Journalists from the trucking industry are now voting on the four finalists, who will be introduced March 22 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. One driver will be named the 2006 Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the Truck Writers of North America annual banquet and 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.
The finalists for 2006 are:
• Elizabeth Pavlista, Miami, Ariz, a driver for B.J. Cecil Trucking
Inc. based in Claypool, Ariz.
Pavlista, hauling her daily load of rock on an end-dump truck, was traveling north on State Route 177 near Kearney, Ariz., on Aug. 8, 2006, when a car passed her, lost control, hit a guardrail and rolled down an embankment.
Pavlista said she immediately grabbed a fire extinguisher, yelled for an elderly man to assist her, climbed over the guardrail and helped the man to where the car rested upside down and on fire.
Risking her own life, the six-year truck driver struggled to pull a large woman from the burning car. Pavlista helped the man operate the fire extinguisher amid popping sounds coming from the car. Just as the car fuel tank exploded, they managed to pull the woman farther from the flames.
Pavlista stayed with the woman, despite the intense heat coming from the blaze. State police from nearby Globe, Ariz., and firefighters arrived, and Pavlista was told to move her truck away from the rising flames. Despite spraying four extinguishers on the fire, it continued to burn. The truck driver said she didn't want to leave the woman, but was forced back to her truck.
The woman was airlifted by helicopter, but news reports said she later died. Pavlista, who drives by the spot everyday, said she's constantly reminded of that day and feels sad that the woman succumbed to her injuries.
• Edward Regener, Perres, Calif., a driver for FedEx Freight based in Fontana, Calif.
Regener saved the lives of three men in a three-vehicle collision on I-10 near Goodyear, Ariz., on Nov. 4, 2006.
The accident was triggered when 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. Regener immediately worked to remove two men from the car and a man and woman from the pickup truck before the fire spread farther.
One Goodyear police officer said Regener was crucial in helping him remove the large male pickup driver away from the flames. Regener was later transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation. A passenger in the pickup truck later died from her injuries.
• Richard Miner, Phoenix, a driver for Saia Motor Freight based in
Miner saved a young woman's life when he was traveling east on I-10 near Phoenix on Sept. 28, 2006. Miner 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. Miner was the only person to stop to offer assistance.
The woman was trapped in her car; the roof of the car had collapsed onto the seats; and the doors were jammed closed. The truck driver returned to his cab and called for help. Just then, he saw flames coming from the rear of the car.
Miner ran back to the car and used his fire extinguisher to put out the fire and somehow was able to pry open the car door and pull the woman to safety. He stayed with the severely injured woman for nearly 20 minutes, cradling her head and talking with her, until emergency crews arrived.
• Marlon Marum of Burnsville, Minn., a driver for Con-way Freight of Eagan, Minn.
Marum was making deliveries in downtown Minneapolis on Oct. 6, 2006, and witnessed a Metro Transit police officer under attack by a man who was attempting to wrest control of the officer's stun and handguns.
The officer said he had observed two men allegedly engaged in an illegal drug transaction. After continued surveillance, 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 to the altercation. 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 was able to regain control of his weapons and the suspect.