Jason Harte worthy of being called a Highway Hero

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 3/22/2013

Jason Harte credits his training as volunteer firefighter and first responder for his actions last July on a lonely stretch of rural Interstate 80 in Wyoming.

Photo by Dave Tanner, Land Line Magazine

Goodyear Highway Hero Jason Hart and wife Lisa at MATS 2013

Harte, an owner-operator from Rogers, AR, who is leased to Sammons Trucking in Missoula, MT, was named the 30th Goodyear Highway Hero during the Mid-America Trucking Show. The award is given to a truck driver who puts his personal safety at risk to help someone else.

Harte, an OOIDA member, remembers the day he came upon a horrific wreck that involved a pickup colliding with a minivan and a car that sent the vehicles careening off the roadway.

“I saw a cloud of smoke ahead,” Harte said, recalling his first thoughts. “At first, when I saw the minivan, I couldn’t even tell it was a minivan.”

Relying on his training to keep calm, Harte pulled off and dashed over to the van to help. Others were attending to the victim in the car.

“That’s when my training just kicked in,” he told Land Line.

The minivan contained six occupants – a mother, father, a 6-month-old child and three other children. The mother, father and baby were OK, and made it out quickly. The other three children were trapped in the vehicle. It was obvious to Harte that their injuries were severe.

Harte recalls a bystander speaking frantically to the 911 operator. The situation called for a calm voice to give the operator a better understanding of what happened.

“I took the phone and said, ‘This is what we need,’” Harte recalls.

While they waited on emergency crews, Harte called on bystanders to try to pry the seats out of the van to get to the children.

“I didn’t care how we did it, as long as we got them out,” he said. One girl had two broken legs, a broken collarbone and skull fractures.

With crews arriving, and the family safe, Harte said he surveyed the damage and wondered how they all made it out alive. Fortunately, they did.

“I stayed in contact with the family for about a month until I was sure they were all OK,” Harte said.

Harte was born in Washington state. Although he has a total of 27 years trucking experience, Harte left the industry for a while to join the Navy in the late 1980s. He served in the Persian Gulf War and is a proud veteran.

Harte later moved to Rogers, AR, to be closer to his mother. He and his wife, Lisa, were celebrating their seventh wedding anniversary during the MATS festivities. It was their first time at MATS. Jason has three boys and Lisa has two boys, “like a Brady Bunch without the girls,” they said.

Goodyear has recognized a Highway Hero each of the past 30 years. Harte received a Highway Hero ring and $5,000 from the company.

“Jason Harte’s quick thinking and brave actions rescued a family of six from a terrible situation,” said Gary Medalis, director of marketing for Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems.

“Jason’s decision to offer assistance is a powerful example of the selflessness exhibited by professional truck drivers,” Medalis said. “Because of his actions, lives in all probability were saved. For this, Jason has earned the right to be called a hero.”

Harte considers himself one of the many truck drivers who happen upon crashes or stop to help others in need.

Goodyear recognized three other finalists for the Highway Hero award, as well.

Christopher Burgess of Ravenna, OH, maneuvered and crashed his own truck into trees and a riverbank to avoid a busy intersection in Akron after his brakes failed on a downhill grade. Burgess was killed in the crash.

Chad Dickey of Wadena, MN, who came across vehicle debris, including a fuel tank in the roadway near Chattanooga, TN, searched for and found trucker Lewis Boyd suffering from a severe leg injury following a crash. Dickey, an OOIDA member, applied a tourniquet to Boyd’s leg for 30 minutes, saving his life until emergency responders arrived.

David Williams of Angier, NC, was driving near Wilmington, when he spotted a disabled car. After placing safety cones around the car and directing traffic away, a pickup swerved and slammed into the back of his truck. The pickup burst into flames, but Williams was there to extinguish the fire and help the occupant.

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