On Nov. 13, 2009, Shawn Hubbard, a professional truck driver with Ruan Transport Corp., pulled Armando Duenas from almost certain death just seconds before the car he had been traveling in burst into flames. A year later, Duenas has made a full recovery and will be on hand to personally thank Hubbard as he is named the Truckload Carriers Association’s 2010 Highway Angel of the Year during a ceremony at the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl.
On the morning of the accident, Duenas and his friend Zach Headden had been playing in a band in San Diego until 2 a.m. As they headed back to the Los Angeles area with Headdon in the driver’s seat, Duenas remembers trying to stay awake to help his friend stay alert. Somewhere around 3:30 a.m., however, it appears that Headden fell asleep at the wheel. The car struck multiple light poles and a highway sign, then got tangled in nearly 100 yards of chain-link fence. Catching on fire, it finally came to rest in a ditch against a 40-foot high embankment.
Hubbard had just made a delivery when he saw the flames from the car light up the early morning darkness. Thinking it was a simple car fire, he was surprised to find two people inside: Headden, who was dead, and Duenas, who was alive, but pinned on all sides by the crushed car. Using his own fire extinguisher and one that was thrown down to him from someone high up on the embankment, Hubbard was able to slow the flames down for a short time, but could not fully extinguish them. Then the flames intensified.
With adrenaline providing an extra boost of energy, Hubbard was able to pull the debris and collapsed roof off the car so that Duenas could escape. Screaming at him to move quickly regardless of the pain, Hubbard got the heavy-set man out and pushed him up the hill to safety, seconds before flames fully engulfed the car.
After the accident, Duenas spent five days in the hospital with broken cheekbones, several missing teeth and deep cuts around his knee. Hubbard visited Duenas there, and Duenas tearfully told him, “I owe my life to you.” The two men will be forever linked by the life-altering events of that day, and they have remained in touch.
“It will be a proud moment for the trucking industry when Hubbard’s act of heroism is told to millions of viewers – both live and on TV – during the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl,” says Ralph Arthur, president of dedicated contract carriage for Ruan Transport. “We think it is only fitting that Armando Duenas should be present to reunite with Hubbard for this very special occasion.”
Hubbard will be the third Angel of the Year to be recognized at the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl (formerly known as Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl), a post-season NCAA-sanctioned Division I FBS college football bowl game scheduled for Dec. 18 at Boise State University’s Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho.