Mr. Vasovic was driving his truck near Los Angeles last October when he witnessed a double tanker truck, carrying diesel fuel, hit the concrete divider of a freeway overpass, careen off a wall and slam into a guard rail. The trunks tanks were ripped open and the truck came to a stop with its tractor and first tanker hanging over the side of the overpass, Goodyear said.
The truck's driver was trapped inside his cab when the diesel ignited. The driver, now on fire, kicked out a window, slid down the truck and fell to the ground, breaking an arm and leg. By that point, the suspended truck was engulfed in flames.
Mr. Vasovic and another bystander tried to pull the injured driver to safety, but due to the intense heat, they could drag him only a few yards at a time. Mr. Vasovic dashed back to his truck and poured water on himself, which enabled him to drag the badly injured driver 20 yards away from his original position. Moments later, the entire burning tanker truck crashed to the ground.
“Ivan's quick thinking and brave actions saved a fellow truck driver from a life-threatening situation,” said Gary Medalis, marketing director, Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems. “He literally put himself in harm's way to save another person's life. Ivan's decision to interject himself into this deadly scenario is a powerful example of the selflessness exhibited by professional truck drivers. He has earned the right to be called a Highway Hero.”
He and three other truckers were selected as finalists for the annual award sponsored by Akron-based Goodyear.
Other finalists were:
- Brian Dunn, a driver from Knoxville, Tenn., who was driving down a highway in Oklahoma when he saw a car crash through a guard rail and land on its roof in the middle of the road. He ran to the car as its engine caught fire. Running back to his truck to grab his fire extinguisher, Mr. Dunn heard a child crying and spotted a two-year-old boy trapped in the back seat of the burning car. Braving the flames, according to Goodyear, Mr. Dunn yanked on the car's door until it gave way, allowing him to rescue the child, whom he then handed to bystanders. Mr. Dunn then ran back to his car for his fire extinguisher while other bystanders tried to rescue the boy's mother, who had driven the car. They later learned that she died as a result of the crash.
- Tim Horton, a driver from Sheridan, Ark., was driving outside Tuscaloosa, Ala., when a small car passed his truck, lost control and drove into a 35-foot-deep ravine, landing upside down in a creek bed. The car's driver, a teenager, was trapped inside the car and had suffered a large cut on his head. Mr. Horton flagged down the driver of another vehicle, who happened to be a volunteer firefighter. The two men made their way down the steep, brush-covered embankment, finding the teenager alive but bleeding heavily. Mr. Horton cut the teenager's seat belt and pulled him from the car. After Mr. Horton and the volunteer firefighter stabilized the teen's condition, Mr. Horton called for additional help. It took 10 men using a 50-foot fire ladder to transport the teenager to a waiting ambulance.
- Scott Rosenberg, a driver from Isanti, Minn., had just completed a delivery in Stillwater, Minn., when he spotted a pickup truck upside down in a pond with steam rising from it. At the time, Mr. Rosenberg was driving a trailer with a boom crane used for loading heavy concrete products. Acting quickly, he positioned his crane in place, hoping to flip the pickup over and back onto its wheels. In the meantime, two other men had reached the pickup and were trying to pry its doors open, to no avail. Using his crane, Goodyear said, Mr. Rosenberg turned the pickup right-side up. Its driver, a college student who had fallen asleep at the wheel, was still alive. Police then arrived and pulled him from the vehicle.
“Each of our Highway Hero Award finalists is a hero in his own right,” Mr. Medalis said. “We are honored to recognize these selfless individuals for their acts of courage and compassion. They truly are a credit to their profession.”