A Texas truck driver – called a “mountain of a man” by the family whose lives he saved – has been named the 22nd Goodyear North American Highway Hero. The honor was announced recently at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY.
Rick Dent – a 6-foot, 300-pound, Diana, TX, driver for Groendyke Transport Inc. – was credited with aiding Bob Strickland and his small children, Megan and Paul, when Strickland’s car swerved to miss a deer and landed in a water-filled ditch.
The wreck happened July 14, 2004, in a 6-foot-deep ditch teeming with snakes along U.S. 84 near Jena, LA.
“This huge man pulled the door open about 3 inches, but it was stuck. Suddenly, my daughter screamed again, and he grabs the door and pulls it off the car like it is made of cardboard,” Strickland said.
Dent took Megan and Paul to land, and returned for Strickland, whose foot was lodged under the dash. Dent dove and freed Strickland’s foot, then carried him to safety.
“This man saved our lives,” Strickland said. “The car sank before he got me to the bank. I have a new respect for truck drivers.”
Dent was awarded a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond and a specially designed size 17 ring for his nearly 3-1/2-inch finger circumference during the Mid-America Trucking Show.
Dent was selected along with three other truck drivers as finalists for the 2004 award. Other finalists included:
• OOIDA member David Tucker, of La Grande, OR, driver for Seneca Foods Corp. – Tucker saved the life of a female California Highway Patrol officer, who was brutally attacked during a traffic stop
Dec. 2, 2003.
• Jose Ogas Jr., of Fayetteville, NC, driver for TMC Transportation – While traveling on Interstate 70 in Pennsylvania, Ogas saved a man and his daughter from their burning car Dec. 31, 2003.
• Pat Foraker, of Quaker City, OH, driver for Transport Corp. of America – Foraker and his wife, Brenda, saved the lives of two women in a two-car crash on April 15, 2004.