A truck driver who saved the life of a man deliberately set on fire, then helped police locate the suspect, was named Goodyear's 2004 Highway Hero during the recent Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville.
Derrick Harris, a driver for Schneider National Carriers, received a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond for the award. Three other drivers were selected as finalists for the 21st annual award, founded by Goodyear in 1983 to recognize professional truck drivers for rescues and roadside assistance.
Last fall, Mr. Harris, of Hopewell, Va., was driving out of Richmond, Va., headed for Knoxville, Tenn., when he noticed a fire near the side of the road. ``When I first saw the flames, I thought it was a brush fire,'' Mr. Harris said, according to a Goodyear statement. ``Then I noticed the fire was moving, and I realized it was a person. It seemed like something from TV or the movies, like it was a stunt man on fire.''
Mr. Harris stopped and secured his truck, grabbed a blanket and water cooler. He wrapped the man in the blanket to put out the fire then soaked the blanket with water to cool the victim. Mr. Harris then grabbed a fire extinguisher from his truck and put out fires in surrounding trees. While doing this, he found a container that smelled like kerosene, the Goodyear statement said. He tried to calm and comfort the victim while calling emergency services.
When emergency crews arrived, Mr. Harris suggested that someone may have deliberately set the man on fire, based on his own observations and comments from the victim. Police searched the surrounding woods and found a suspect within three hours, Goodyear said. The suspect admitted to the crime the next day, the tire maker reported.
The victim suffered burns on more than 60 percent of his body, but authorities credit Mr. Harris with saving his life.
``Seeing someone suffer like that was terrible...something you wouldn't wish upon anyone,'' Mr. Harris said. ``For me, stopping to help was simply a reaction. I really didn't think about what I was doing until it was all over. I just did what I had to do.''
Mr. Harris also received a Presidential Citation Award from Schneider.
Other trucker finalists for the Highway Hero award included: David Dunham of Fitchburg, Mass., who pulled an injured trucker from a burning rig after an accident; Joe Sines of Horse Shoe Run, W. Va., who saved two young girls from a van that lost control and crashed in front of his rig; and Anne Spriggs of Willow Springs, Mo., who resuscitated a 5-year-old girl in the midst of a seizure.