MATS, LOUISVILLE, KY -- A truck driver who rescued another trucker who had fallen from a burning tanker truck that was hanging over the side of a freeway overpass was named the 31st Goodyear Highway Hero during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. on Thursday.
The award honors professional truck drivers who put themselves in harm’s way to help others as they travel the highways of North America.
Chosen from four finalists, Ivan Vasovic of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., was in his truck in Los Angeles last October when he witnessed a double tanker truck hit the concrete divider of a freeway overpass, careen off a wall and slam into a guard rail. Its tanks, which were full of diesel, ripped open and the truck came to a stop with its tractor and first tanker hanging over the side of the overpass.
The truck’s driver was trapped inside 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 with black clouds of smoke billowing from it.
Gary Medalis, left, marketing director, Goodyear commercial tire systems and Ivan Vasovic, 31st Goodyear Highway Hero. Photo: Evan Lockridge
Vasovic and another bystander tried to pull the injured driver to safety. However, due to the intense heat, they could only drag him a few yards at a time. 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.”
In accepting the award Vasovic said he “didn’t expect this” honor.
As the 31st Goodyear Highway Hero Award winner, Vasovic receives a special Highway Hero ring, $5,000 and other prizes. The runners-up each receive $2,500 and a trophy.