OOIDA member among three finalists for Goodyear 'Highway Hero'

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 2/10/2015

An OOIDA member from Kentucky is among a trio of finalists for Goodyear’s Highway Hero Award, which honors professional truckers who put themselves in harm’s way to help others.

Finalists for the 32nd Goodyear Highway Hero Award include a driver who rescued a law enforcement official who was being strangled by a prisoner; a driver who rescued a woman and a 1-year-old child from a burning car; and a driver who pulled a semi-conscious man from a burning vehicle. Winners will be announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., next month.

Photo courtesy of Goodyear

Clinton Blackburn

Clinton Blackburn, a driver from Morehead, Ky., was traveling near Elizabethtown, Ky., on March 12, 2014, when he observed a sheriff’s cruiser lurch toward the highway median and abruptly stop. When he pulled up to investigate, he noticed that the car’s driver side door was open. The driver, Spencer County jailer Darrell Herndon, was being strangled from behind by a prisoner who was leaning over the back seat.

Blackburn ran to the car, reached into the vehicle through its driver side door, and began struggling with the prisoner in an effort to free Herndon, who was immobilized by his seat belt. During the scuffle, the prisoner pulled Herndon’s gun from its holster. Blackburn immediately grabbed the barrel of the gun and pointed it toward the car’s dashboard.

Meanwhile, Herndon released his seat belt and rolled out of the car. The prisoner then tried to point the gun at Blackburn, who turned the weapon around and aimed it at the prisoner. Pointing the gun at the prisoner, Blackburn backed away from the car. Realizing that the cruiser’s keys were still in the ignition, the prisoner tried to start the car and drive away. Working together, Blackburn and Herndon subdued him.

“When I saw what was happening, I knew if I didn’t stop, (Herndon) may not go home,” Blackburn said in a phone interview with Land Line after the incident. “That’s what was on my mind the whole time. As soon as I’d seen it, I’ve got to do something. This man was in a bad way. You could see it in his face. He needed help. I just thought, ‘This man’s going home.’”

Another nominee, David Fredericksen, of Windermere, Fla., was one of several people to assist in the rescue of a woman and her granddaughter following an Aug. 11, 2014, crash in Gulfport, Miss.

Fredericksen was driving down the interstate when he saw a car crash into another truck and catch fire. He grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran to the car. Fredericksen repelled the flames enough to reach the car’s passenger side door. By this time, several spectators and his co-driver had joined him. They helped him remove the woman – who had suffered a broken leg – and her year-old grandchild from the blazing car.

By the time firefighters reached the scene, the vehicle’s passenger area was completely engulfed in flames. The incident was captured by Fredericksen’s dashboard camera.
“You know, this happens every day,” Fredericksen told Land Line following the incident. “Truck drivers get out and do this every day. It just so happens I had a camera and I had a son that posted it on YouTube saying ‘my dad is a hero.’”

The third finalist is Mack Guffey, a driver from Gainesboro, Tenn. Guffey was driving near New York City when an SUV passed his truck and slammed into a guard rail. According to reports, the SUV flipped over and landed on its side, causing the front of the vehicle to burst into flames. Guffey stopped his truck, grabbed his fire extinguisher, and ran over to the SUV.

While fighting the fire, he tried to reach into the SUV through its broken windshield to grab the severely injured, semi-conscious driver. Using his extinguisher, he then smashed the SUV’s side window, grabbed the driver and carried him to safety. Fearing that other people were trapped inside the SUV, Guffey ran back to the now flame-engulfed vehicle, only to discover that nobody else was inside.

Guffey’s clothes had caught fire during the rescue. He suffered several cuts and burns due to his efforts, but stayed with the vehicle’s driver until help arrived.

Trucking industry journalists will vote on the winner, who will receive a special ring, a $5,000 award, and a congratulatory crystal. Each of the other finalists will receive a cash prize and other items.

“Truck drivers are often the first responders to on-highway incidents, putting their lives on the line to save people from dangerous situations,” said Gary Medalis, director of marketing, Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems. “Each of this year’s Highway Hero Award finalists is a true hero in his own right and a credit to the trucking industry.”

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