LOUISVILLE, KY -- Truck driver Julian Kaczor of Utica, N.Y., named the 33rd Goodyear Highway Hero for pulling an injured motorist from a burning car, used the awards ceremony to deliver an important safety message.
Kaczor was chosen from a group of three finalists and accepted his award during the Mid-America Trucking Show Thursday. The Goodyear Highway Award winner was selected by an independent panel of trucking industry judges.
Kaczor was driving in Jacksonville, Fla., when a car passed him, nearly clipping his truck. The car crashed into a construction barrier and began to emit smoke. He ran to the car as it burst into flames, which he tried to extinguish. Kaczor eventually forced the driver’s side door open, pulled the injured driver out of the vehicle and dragged him to safety.
“Julian acted instantly to help another person who was in need, without regard for his own well-being,” said Gary Medalis, marketing director, Goodyear. “His decision to get involved exemplifies the courage and decisiveness of professional truck drivers.”
During a short acceptance speech, Kaczor, a driver for 20 years and a long-haul trucker for 10, urged the audience to drive safely in construction zones.
In an interview following the ceremony, he explained that the driver who crashed was in a construction zone marked 45 mph. "He was going well past the speed limit when he passed me, lost control of his car and hit the construction barrier," he explained.
His initial reaction after it was all, Kaczor said, was that he was glad the victim was going to live. Unfortunately, he later learned that the man he had saved had died a week later.
For winning the award, Kaczor receives a Highway Hero ring, $5,000 and other prizes. Goodyear chose three finalists in February. The other finalists were Mark Cavanagh from Hillsville, Va., and Dorian Cole from Los Angeles, Calif.
Cavanagh helped a fellow trucker who had driven off of the road and was hanging from his rig from its mirror bracket by a belt. He cut the driver loose and pulled him to safety, staying with him until help arrived.
Cole witnessed an LAPD motorcycle officer collide with another motorcyclist, causing the officer to hti a concrete divider. To protect the injured officer from oncoming traffic, Cole position his tanker truck across several highway lanes until the paramedics arrived.