Tanker driver killed in accident finalist in Goodyear Hero Award
Feb 12, 2008 2:34 PM
A tank truck driver for Canadian carrier, Wilburn Archer Trucking of Norwood, Ontario, who was killed avoiding a collision is a posthumous finalist for Goodyear’s 25th annual North America Highway Hero Award, according to The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co information.
David Virgoe of Innisfil, Ontario, died when he swerved his unit to avoid three cars weaving in and out of traffic on Highway 400 near Bradford, Ontario, June 18, 2007. He was cut off by one of the cars that were street-racing. He drove his truck into the median guardrail, and then made a split-second decision to avoid oncoming traffic and drove into a ditch along the right side of the road.
An air ambulance responded to the accident, but Virgoe, 48, died before he could be transported.
"In his quick selfless reaction, Virgoe was hailed as a hero by witnesses and Ontario police, who said his actions helped to save the lives of countless others," according to the Goodyear information.
Three men were arrested for dangerous driving resulting in death in the incident.
Virgoe is survived by his wife, Debbie, three children, and five grandchildren.
Other finalists in the Goodyear hero program include Rick Tower of Yreka CA, Richard Filiczkowski of Bountiful UT, and Ronnie Greene of Regina NM.
"Each year, we are amazed by truck drivers from the United States and Canada, who put their lives on the line to help others. On this 25th anniversary of the Goodyear Highway Hero program, we truly are in awe of these brave men and women who travel our highways," said Steve McClellan, vice-president for commercial tire systems for Goodyear.
"This year, we are honoring one driver posthumously, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family as well as those of the victims who lost their lives on North American roads and highways," he added. "Time and again, truck drivers have emerged as bona fide heroes. When motorists needed help, they’ve stopped and put themselves in harm’s way," McClellan said.
Tower, 40, a driver for Earl Bryant Trucking based in Happy Camp CA, was driving home on Highway 96 near Horse Creek CA September 19, 2007, when a westbound car left the roadway and landed in the swift Klamath River.
Tower said he jumped from his rig and yelled to a man who stopped behind him to call for help. He ran down to the river and saw that the car was moving downstream and a woman inside was screaming for help.
Tower jumped into the river and swam to the car. Fighting a strong current, he struggled to open the car door and pull the woman out as the water rushed into her car. She sank a few times, but Tower was able to carry her as he swam. He was tiring quickly, but the man who had stopped earlier was on shore and ready to help with a rope.
After getting the woman out of the water, the men made her comfortable as they waited for help to arrive. The 82-year-old woman suffered a broken ankle and slight hypothermia. Tower said he was thankful everyone survived.
Another finalist, Filiczkowski, 38, is a driver for C R England Inc, based in West Valley City UT. He saved the life of an eight-year-old girl after her father inadvertently drove his car into a pond along Interstate 90, near Plankinton SD April 26, 2007.
Filiczkowski's wife, Janet, was driving the rig when she saw the one-car accident. She called for help to her husband, who was resting in the sleeper compartment. Filiczkowski quickly dressed, grabbed his shoes, and ran a quarter-mile to the scene. He could hear the girl’s screaming as he entered the frigid eight-foot-deep pond.
The girl had unbuckled her seat belt and crawled into the back seat. Her father was unresponsive. Two other men joined Filiczkowski in the water, but the car doors were jammed. The men managed to open the rear hatch to remove the girl and Filiczkowski carried her to his wife.
The car quickly sank in the dark water. The three men worked to free the girl’s father, who was restrained by a seat belt. One of the men found a pocketknife on shore and used it to cut part of the seat belt. Filiczkowski cut the remainder, but the man’s legs remained lodged under the steering column. One rescuer freed one of the man’s legs, and Filiczkowski dislodged the other. After 10 minutes, the truck driver finally pulled the father from the car and swam to shore, but it was too late. The Worthington Minnesota physician had died.
In another incident, Greene, 35, a driver for A Passmore and Sons of Altus OK, and fellow driver, Brian Peterson, were enroute to Albuquerque NM on US Highway 84 near Espanola NM April 27, 2007, when they saw a pregnant woman being attacked by a man and then run over by him in a pickup truck.
The man, the woman’s boyfriend, reportedly tried to pull her into his truck before hitting her with the vehicle’s door and then running over her legs and pelvis.
Greene, a former firefighter and paramedic, ran to the injured woman and helped her stand. The boyfriend turned the truck around and tried to run over the woman and Greene, who pushed her between his truck and trailer, shielding her with his body. The enraged man tried three more times to run over Greene and the woman.
On the final attempt, the pickup truck struck Michael Rutkowski, a Medanales NM engineer from Los Alamos National Laboratory, who also left his vehicle to help the woman. When the man in the pickup left the area, Greene placed the woman in his truck cab with his fellow driver, and then returned to Rutkowski, who died with the truck driver at his side.
All the heroes will be honored March 27 at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville KY. One driver will be named the 2007 Goodyear North America Highway Hero at the Truck Writers of North America annual banquet and receive a $10,000 US Savings Bond, a plaque, and a specially designed ring. The other finalists will receive a $5,000 Savings Bond and plaque.
Founded by Goodyear in 1983, the Highway Hero program recognizes professional truck drivers and the often unnoticed, life-saving rescues and roadside assistance they provide as their jobs take them across North America.
More information about the award program is online at goodyear.com.
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