OOIDA member nominated for Goodyear Highway Hero award

| 3/10/2005

Four truck drivers, among them an OOIDA member, have been selected as finalists for the Goodyear North America Highway Hero Award, a trucking industry award for heroism.

Each driver risked his life to save another in an automobile accident or traffic stop, Goodyear officials said. Journalists from the trucking industry are now voting on the drivers, who will be introduced March 31 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY.

OOIDA member David Tucker, of La Grande, OR, a driver for Seneca Foods Corp. in Marion, NY, was named one of the four finalists.

According to the Goodyear news release announcing the finalists, Tucker saved the life of a female California Highway Patrol officer who was attacked during a traffic stop.

On Dec. 2, 2003, Tucker was heading south on California Highway 99 in the Los Angeles area when he came upon patrol officer Wendy Weidenman, who had stopped a motorist for speeding near Turlock. Weidenman said she noticed the motorist had been drinking and conducted a field sobriety test.

While she was handcuffing him, the man began hitting her face. The attacker was standing over her and beating her in the face when Tucker stopped his truck. Just seeing Tucker – an imposing figure – the man stopped the attack and fled in his sport-utility vehicle.

After an all-day manhunt, the attacker was arrested that evening and booked into the county jail on five felony and three misdemeanor charges. The officer’s face was cut and bruised and her teeth were damaged. She returned to duty and credited Tucker with saving her life.

For his actions, Tucker received awards from the California Highway Patrol, the California State Assembly and the Merced County Board of Supervisors.

The other finalists and the incidents they were nominated for, according to the news release, are:

Jose Ogas Jr. of Fayetteville, NC, a driver for TMC Transportation, which is based in Des Moines, IA. Ogas, applying his Army training with a combat lifesaving team, saved a man and his daughter from their burning car Dec. 31, 2003.

Ogas was driving on Interstate 70 in Pennsylvania when he noticed the driver in front of him swerving over the yellow line into oncoming traffic. The car eventually left the roadway and landed upside down. He immediately called for help and grabbed his fire extinguisher.

The vehicle’s engine was smoking, and he saw a body inside the car. He was apprehensive at first, but when he heard crying and spotted a little girl in the back seat, he decided to act.

Fearful that the vehicle might explode, Ogas pleaded with bystanders to help him. One who had medical training told him he shouldn’t move the girl because of the risk involved. But Ogas knew this was a life-and-death situation.

As several men lifted the car, he slid through the driver’s window, grabbed the girl’s legs and pulled her out. She said she was dizzy, and that her father was still in the car. Ogas returned to the car, and again, the men lifted the car so he could crawl in to rescue the father.

He got hold of the man by the shoulders, and with difficulty, removed him. Ogas administered basic first aid until paramedics arrived.

Besides being named a finalist as a Highway Hero, Ogas has been named a Highway Angel by the Truckload Carriers Association in February. He also has received a bronze star for valor for helping to capture a powerful colonel in Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army in Desert Storm.

Pat Foraker, of Quaker City, OH, a driver for Transport Corp. of America, which is based in Eagan, MN. Foraker and his wife, Brenda, saved the lives of two women in a two-car crash April 15, 2004.

The Forakers were on their way to pick up a load in Greenville, MI, when they arrived on an accident scene. The cars were smoking, and Pat and Brenda each ran to the separate vehicles.

Brenda found an unconscious man and woman trapped in their car, and neither was breathing. She noticed a car seat in the back seat and began looking for a child. Unable to find the child, she held the woman’s chin high enough so that she could breathe.

The woman finally told Brenda that her baby was staying with another family member. Pat discovered a conscious woman trapped in her car and comforted her until another motorist arrived and called for a life flight helicopter, two ambulances and equipment to extract the trapped passengers.

A volunteer fire unit showed up, and Pat operated the extraction machinery. He stayed with the woman until the helicopter took her to the hospital.

Rick Dent, of Diana, TX, a driver for Groendyke Transport Inc., which is based in Enid, OK. Dent saved the lives of a father and his two children July 14, 2004, on U.S. 84 near Jena, LA.

The family car swerved to avoid hitting a deer and landed in a water-filled ditch. The car quickly filled with water. Dent jumped out of this truck, ran to the water’s edge and asked if the family was OK.

The father yelled that they were trapped and that the car was sinking. Snakes were swimming everywhere, and the 3-year-old girl was screaming. Dent swam to the car, but the doors and power windows were jammed.

The truck driver dislodged the door about 3 inches, but it was stuck. Suddenly, the girl screamed again, and in a burst of strength, Dent pulled the door off the car like it was made of cardboard.

He took the children to the water’s edge and returned for the father, whose foot was lodged under the dash. Dent dove underwater and freed the father’s foot, and then carried him to safety. He then called for help and wrapped the family in blankets.

Founded by Goodyear in 1983, the Highway Hero program recognizes professional truck drivers and the often unnoticed, life-saving rescues and roadside assistance they provide as their jobs take them across North America.