Louisville, KY, March 19, 2009 – The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has honored Colorado truck driver Jorge Orozco Sanchez with the 26th Goodyear North American Highway Hero Award, in recognition of his effort in saving two young girls after a horrific highway accident this past October.
Orozco Sanchez was named the 2008 Highway Hero here at a special awards banquet Thursday night during the Mid-America Trucking Show. His acceptance speech was brief, humble and clearly moved the attendees who couldn’t stop applauding.
“It wasn’t anything any other truck driver wouldn’t do,” he said simply as he was introduced as the 2008 winner.
With the award, he also received a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond, a plaque, a Goodyear GPS unit and a specially designed ring.
An independent owner-operator and new member of OOIDA, Orozco Sanchez was hauling grain on Oct. 28, 2008 on Highway 392, north of Greeley, CO, when an SUV suddenly crossed the center line and crashed head-on into his tractor-trailer rig. After impact, the truck pushed the SUV backward down the road for about 200 feet.
As the vehicles stopped moving, a shaken Orozco Sanchez quickly jumped from his cab and went to the other vehicle. There, with flames already beginning to surround the vehicles, he saw two girls, strapped into their car seats and crying, and a woman up front who was not moving. Working with a passer-by who used a fire extinguisher to fight back the flames, Orozco Sanchez used his knowledge of child car seats – he has two young children – to rescue the two girls.
One of the youngsters was extracted quickly, but the fire was getting bigger and the smoke was so thick he had trouble seeing into the vehicle. He was finally able to remove the other girl. Then the truck’s saddle fuel tanks ruptured and exploded, creating an inferno. The 27-year-old mother died in the crash.
Orozco Sanchez sustained burns on his arms from the rescue and was taken to a nearby hospital. The fire reduced the cab and the SUV to rubble, along with burning the side of a nearby building.
Joseph Copeland, vice president, Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems, said: “Jorge’s quick thinking and bravery will be reflected in the lives of these two girls, just 1 and 4 years old, in years to come. It is our hope that their friends and family, including the girls’ father, Colin Nicklas, may find comfort in the saving of these two young lives.
“Though modest about the rescue, Jorge should feel proud of his actions. His heroics and those of the truck drivers honored through this award are truly inspiring.”
Founded in 1983, the Goodyear North America 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.
The other Highway Hero finalists included:
Roy Hackett, of Nashville, TN, a driver for United Parcel Service (UPS) – Hackett rescued a man from a disabled car that had caught fire near Chattanooga. Recent hip surgery prevented the man from escaping the inferno without Hackett’s help.
Nikolay Zashev and Tihomir Tanev, of the Chicago area, team drivers for FedEx Ground – After their rig was struck by an out-of-control vehicle, they ran across the lanes of Interstate 80 in Iowa and dragged an unconscious driver away from the burning vehicle.
Willie Wilson, of Santa Clara, CA, a driver for UPS – Upon noticing a burning object off the side of the freeway in California, Wilson stopped his truck and discovered a burning car with an unconscious driver inside. He pulled the driver to safety and provided care until emergency personnel arrived.