Highway Heros Goodyear logoProfessional truck drivers who jumped from their cabs to rescue fellow motorists are being honored as heroes by the Goodyear Tire Company in their 29th annual Highway Hero Awards for North America.

Finalists include a Minnesota driver who came to the aid of an elderly couple that had been trapped in a car during a raging snowstorm; an Ontario trucker who pulled a motorist from a car minutes before it exploded; a milk truck driver in Ohio whose lucky wrench freed a man trapped in a rapidly sinking car; and a brave Ohio truck driver who positioned himself between a woman and a gun-wielding attacker.

“The Highway Hero Award recognizes professional truck drivers who put their lives on the line to help others,” said Phillip Kane, vice president, Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems. “All of our Highway Hero finalists rescued strangers who were in life-threatening peril, and each is a worthy candidate for the award.”

Here are the four finalists for the trucking industry’s most prestigious award for heroism:

* Mike Schiotis of Seville, Ohio, a driver for Panther Expedited Services, was driving to his destination in Pennsylvania on Nov. 1, 2011 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 her. 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 truck stop. 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.

* John Neumeier of Russia, Ohio, who drives for Bohman Trucking, was loading his milk delivery truck on 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 and knowing he had little time to waste, Neumeier 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. (Read about the “lucky wrench” that he’d carried in his truck for years at MSNBC.)

* Melville Farnell of Shelburne, Ontario, a driver for Tupling Farms Produce, was making a delivery on May 13, 2011 when a car that was 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 jack knife. 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. Farnell was credited with saving the motorist’s life by acting swiftly and putting his own life in danger just before the explosion.

* John Crozman of Albertville, Minn., who drives for Long Haul Trucking, was driving down a rest stop access road near Summit, S.D., in the middle of a severe snowstorm. He noticed a candle flickering inside a car that was 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. Authorities noted that the severely low temperatures could have been deadly to the couple if not for Crozman’s actions.

Trucking industry journalists are now voting on this year’s Highway Hero finalists, who will be lauded at an annual banquet on March 22. The winning driver will be named the 2011 Goodyear North America Highway Hero and receive a specially designed ring, a plaque and a cash award. Each of the other finalists will receive a plaque and a cash award.

Learn more about past winners at the website: www.goodyear.com/hero

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