For more than 100 years, the Carnegie Institute has awarded the medal of heroism to individuals who “left a safe place” and risked their life while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. OOIDA Member Jorge Orozco-Sanchez joined that select group last weekend, solemnly accepting the medal in a ceremony at the Truck Show Latino in Pomona, CA.
Doug Chambers, from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, bestowed the honor. Chambers said the acts of heroism that earned Carnegie medals were acts of an “extraordinary degree.” He said 20 percent of the medals awarded were to individuals who had lost their lives in the attempt to save others.
Chambers said each bronze medallion is individually struck. On the back of Jorge’s medal, a simple line reads: Jorge L. Orozco-Sanchez saved Peyton and Morgen Nicklas from burning, Lucerne, Colorado, October 28, 2008.
It’s a story well-known to the trucking industry. Jorge was named Goodyear Highway Hero of 2008 for saving Peyton, 4, and Morgen, 1, after their mother’s sport utility vehicle crashed head-on into Jorge’s tractor-trailer. Their mother did not survive the crash.
As the vehicles erupted in flames, the girls remained strapped in their car seats in the back of the SUV. Jorge used a fire extinguisher to break through a window to save Peyton, as the door would not open. After taking her a safe distance away, he returned to the vehicle, approaching it on its driver’s side, which was on fire. Using a fire extinguisher, he put out the flames on the back door and was able to open it enough to reach inside and free the baby and get her to safety.
Jorge went back to see what he could do for the girls’ mother, but he was unable to get close because of intolerable heat and flames. Peyton and Morgen were hospitalized for treatment of their injuries, but they were not burned. Jorge suffered minor injuries.
Jorge is an owner-operator leased to the Scoular Co. He and his wife, Susie, and two children, Robert and Lorena, live in Firestone, CO.
– By Sandi Soendker, managing editor