Goodyear North America Highway Hero saves people stuck on train tracks

| April 3, 2011

The 28th annual Goodyear North America Highway Hero is an Olympia, Wash. truck driver who helped save the lives of two people in a car that had come to a stop on railroad tracks, including pulling the unconscious driver from his car before it was struck by an approaching train.

From among four finalists, Tilden Curl accepted the 2010 Goodyear North America Highway Hero award and a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond during the Mid-America Trucking Show.

Just after noon on Oct. 27, 2010, Curl was driving southbound on Highway 99 near Tulare, Calif., when a vehicle appeared to lose control and cross traffic, leaving the highway and finally coming to a stop with its front wheels lodged over the railroad tracks that run parallel to the highway. Curl stopped his truck to check on the car and noticed a train was coming. An elderly woman exited the passenger side of the car, and Curl yelled for her to get clear of the tracks. He then noticed that the driver was unconscious and trapped inside.

At first, the door couldn’t be opened, but Curl was able to squeeze his arm inside and unlock it. Working quickly, he was able to unfasten the man’s seatbelt and drag him out of the car and away from the area just seconds before the train collided with the stranded vehicle.

“We are grateful to Tilden Curl for his quick thinking and brave actions, which ultimately led two strangers to safety. This is a clear example of the selflessness and professionalism of many of today’s professional truck drivers, who are out on our highways every day to deliver the goods and services upon which we all depend,” said Joseph Copeland, Goodyear’s vice president of commercial tire systems.

“Each of these finalists is a true Highway Hero, and their efforts to help others should be applauded. In honoring Tilden Curl, specifically, we acknowledge that he witnessed a dangerous situation and immediately pulled his truck to a stop as a way to provide help. He then reacted quickly and put himself in harm’s way, in order to help rescue strangers who were in peril. Because of that decision, lives were saved. For this, he has earned the right to be called a hero,” Copeland said.

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.

Curl was selected along with three other truck drivers as finalists for the 2010 award. Other finalists included the following:

*Jaime Avitia, of El Paso, Texas, a driver for Stagecoach Cartage. Early in the morning of Aug. 31, 2010, Avitia was driving on I-10 on his way to a company facility in Laredo, Texas.

Beneath I-10 at this point is Highway 17 and a dead-end service road, where he noticed a pickup truck driving at high speed. He watched as the pickup suddenly left the roadway, hit a concrete drainage culvert nose-first, flipped into the air and landed upright. Avitia quickly stopped his truck, grabbed a flashlight and first-aid kit, and ran down the embankment toward the accident. Upon reaching the truck, he opened the front door, but couldn’t find anyone inside.

He then realized the driver – not wearing a seatbelt – had been thrown into the back seat of the crew cab. Unable to find a pulse, Avitia was able to kneel on the front seat, squeeze between the arm rests and administer CPR on the man. After four chest compressions, the man finally coughed and began to breathe. As another man approached the wrecked pickup, Avitia told him to call 911. Until paramedics arrived, Avitia applied a towel and gauze to the man’s bleeding head and kept him comfortable.

*Bill Howard, of Litchfield, Neb., a driver for Howard Transportation. As Howard drove on Highway 2 near Ravenna, Neb. on May 22, 2010, a car crossed the center line and struck his rig that included a grain trailer.

The female driver had fallen asleep, allowing the car to drift into the truck’s drive wheels, then underneath the trailer before coming to rest alongside the road. When Howard stopped his truck to check on the condition of the driver, he found she had sustained life-threatening injuries, including a nearly severed arm, two broken legs, and injuries to her face and head.

Keeping his cool, Howard was able to call for emergency assistance, along with providing assurance to the severely injured driver as she awaited treatment. Two firefighters who were en route to a training class came upon the accident and helped Howard in the efforts to save the woman’s life.

*David Nelson, of Orlando, Fla., a driver for Werner Enterprises. On Feb. 2, 2010, while driving on I-20 near Birmingham, Ala., Nelson was flagged down by a woman who had just lost control of her vehicle and hit a road sign. Nelson pulled over his truck when no one else was willing to help, despite the woman’s pleas. Upon stopping, he approached the car and discovered the woman’s seven-year-old daughter was not breathing.

To make matters more intense, he learned the child had a previous heart condition, and had experienced trauma during the accident. A certified EMT for 25 years, Nelson placed the girl on the ground and performed CPR until emergency personnel arrived. Because of his quick actions, the girl is alive and healthy.

To nominate a professional truck driver for the 2011 Goodyear Highway Hero Award, go to http://www.goodyear.com/truck/news/hero.html. An independent judging panel reviews the nominations and helps select the honorees.

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