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Sammons contractor named 2012 Goodyear Highway Hero

Jason Harte, an independent contractor leased to Sammons Trucking, speaks to the media after being named the 2012 Goodyear Highway Hero of the Year. (The Trucker: APRILLE HANSON)

By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker News Services

3/21/2013

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Sammons Trucking driver who rescued a family of six from a smashed minivan and as a volunteer firefighter took command of the crash scene has been named the 30th Goodyear Highway Hero.

Chosen from four finalists, Jason Harte of Rogers, Ark., an independent contractor leased to Missoula, Mont.-based Sammons, Thursday accepted the award during a ceremony at the Mid-America Trucking Show under way here.

Harte was driving down an interstate in Wyoming last July when he saw a pickup truck traveling at an estimated 95 miles per hour slam into car and a minivan virtually at the same time with the two vehicles spinning off of the highway in opposite directions like billiard balls split by a cue ball.

The car wound up in the median while the minivan traveled about 150 feet off the right side of the highway before coming to a rest, Harte said.

Harte asked others who had stopped to help the car’s driver while Harte turned his attention to the smashed van, which had been occupied by a family of six, including four children, all of whom were vacationing in the area.

Harte saw a man and woman holding a six-month-old baby frantically trying to get out of the vehicle. Harte also noticed that three other children were trapped inside the van. He dialed 911, helped the man, woman and baby out of the van, and then rescued the most accessible of the three other children.

Working with other bystanders, Harte – a former paramedic – opened the van’s back hatch and performed first aid on the child, then pulled her out through the door.

He knew he would need help getting the other children out of the car so he summoned several bystanders to literally tear apart the minivan’s third row, which was now resting where the second row should have been.

Calling upon his EMT experience, Harte helped rescue crews tend to the victims’ injuries – which ranged from broken legs to internal bleeding – until ambulances could whisk them away.

Tim Burke, president of Sammons Trucking, applauded the choice of Harte as Highway Hero.

“I can speak solidly for the employees and contractors of Sammons,” Burke told The Trucker from his office in Montana. “We are very proud of his nomination and being selected the winner of the Goodyear Highway Hero for 2012.  Jason Harte is a model contractor at Sammons and gives selflessly to this company, his fellow contractors and the motoring public. A true hero in our eyes. And again, damn proud of his professionalism and caring.”

As the 30th Goodyear Highway Hero Award winner, Harte receives a special Highway Hero ring, a $5,000 cash prize and other items.

Harte and three other truck drivers were selected as finalists for the Goodyear Highway Hero Award. Other finalists included:

Christopher Burgess, an independent truck driver from Ravenna, Ohio. After picking up 15 tons of sand, Burgess was driving a truck down a steep hill in Akron, Ohio, when its brakes failed. Fighting to keep the truck under control, Burgess waved his arms and honked the vehicle’s horn while it sped down the hill toward a busy intersection at an estimated 50 miles per hour. He maneuvered the truck between two buildings full of people and steered toward bushes and trees at the rear of the property, behind which was a river bank. The truck hit a tree and dropped into the river below. Burgess died in the accident. His parents represented him at Thursday’s announcement.

Chad Dickey of Wadena, Minn., who drives for Tony’s Transfer. Dickey was driving near Chattanooga, Tenn., when he came across vehicle debris, including a fuel tank, scattered across the highway. Dickey stopped his truck, grabbed his flashlight, and went to investigate. He spotted some tracks on the pavement and followed them to a nearby ditch, where he found the remains of an 18-wheeler, including the exposed driver’s seat to which Lewis Boyd, another truck driver, was still strapped. Boyd had suffered a massive gash in his leg and was passing in and out of consciousness due to rapid blood loss. Dickey applied a tourniquet to Boyd’s leg for 30 minutes while keeping him alert until rescue personnel arrived. They airlifted Boyd to a local hospital, where he spent more than a month recovering from his injuries.

David Williams of Angier, N.C., who drives for Schneider National. Williams was driving down an interstate in Wilmington, N.C., when he spotted a disabled car ahead of him. It was raining heavily, and the car had spun around, facing oncoming traffic. Williams stopped his truck and raced to the car. He placed safety cones around the car and began directing traffic away from it. Suddenly, Williams noticed a pickup truck approaching at high speed. He jumped out of the way to avoid being crushed by the pickup, which slammed into the back of his rig and burst into flames.

The pickup’s driver escaped while Williams pulled the truck’s passenger out of the burning vehicle. He then helped extinguish the flames that had engulfed the pickup.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the Goodyear Highway Hero Award honors professional truck drivers who put themselves in harm’s way to help others as they travel the highways and roads of North America.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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