Owner-operator honored as Goodyear Highway Hero

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The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has honored Colorado truck driver Jorge Orozco Sanchez with the 26th Goodyear North American Highway Hero Award in recognition of his effort in saving two young girls after a horrific highway accident last October.

Orozco Sanchez was named the 2008 Highway Hero at a special awards banquet during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. With the award, he also received a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond, a plaque, a Goodyear GPS unit and a specially designed ring.

An owner-operator, Orozco Sanchez was hauling grain on Oct. 28, 2008, on Highway 392, north of Greeley, Colo., when an SUV suddenly crossed the center line and crashed head-on into his tractor-trailer rig. After impact, the truck pushed the SUV backward down the road for about 200 feet.

As the vehicles stopped moving, a shaken Orozco Sanchez quickly jumped from his cab and went to the other vehicle. There, with flames already beginning to surround the vehicles, he saw two girls, strapped into their car seats and crying, and a woman up front who was not moving. Working with a passer-by who used a fire extinguisher to fight back the flames, Orozco Sanchez used his knowledge of child car seats – he has two young children – to rescue the two girls.

One of the youngsters was extracted quickly, but the fire was getting bigger and the smoke was so thick he had trouble seeing into the vehicle. He finally was able to remove the other girl, but then the truck’s saddle fuel tanks ruptured and exploded, creating an inferno. The 27-year-old mother died in the crash.

Orozco Sanchez sustained burns on his arms from the rescue and was taken to a nearby hospital. The fire reduced the cab and the SUV to rubble, along with burning the side of a nearby building.

“Jorge’s quick thinking and bravery will be reflected in the lives of these two girls, just 1 and 4 years old, in years to come,” says Joseph Copeland, vice president of Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems. “It is our hope that their friends and family, including the girls’ father, Colin Nicklas, may find comfort in the saving of these two young lives. Though modest about the rescue, Jorge should feel proud of his actions. His heroics and those of the truck drivers honored through this award are truly inspiring.”

Founded in 1983, the Goodyear North America 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. For more on Goodyear’s Highway Hero program and to nominate a truck driver for the 27th anniversary of the award, click here.