Friday, March 28, 2014

Goodyear Highway Hero: OOIDA Member Ivan Vasovic

In those critical moments when a person's life hangs in the balance, there are people who would risk harm or even death for the chance to save that life. Ivan Vasovic is one of those people.

His actions on a fateful day last year have earned him the title of Goodyear Highway Hero. Goodyear presented Vasovic with the 31st annual award during this year's Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, and he was selected from an extraordinary group of four finalists.

Goodyear Highway Hero and OOIDA Member Ivan Vasovic.
Photo by David Tanner
Vasovic is a truck driver, an OOIDA member, and resident of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. He is an immigrant from Serbia, a part of Europe ravaged by conflict and war. He is grateful for his job and his way of life, and at least one family out there is forever grateful to him.

Vasovic had just begun his workday last October in Los Angeles when he witnessed a double tanker truck crash, first into a concrete divider and then into a guardrail. The tankers, punctured in the crash, were full of diesel fuel. The truck and first tanker ended up hanging precariously off the side of an overpass. The tanker driver, still conscious but now on fire from the ignited diesel fuel, kicked out a window and plunged to the ground, breaking an arm and a leg.

"In that moment, I saw him in danger," Vasovic said.

He then did something that put his own safety on the line. He and another witness had rushed forward to drag the tanker driver to safety, but the flames and heat were becoming too great. With seconds to spare, Vasovic rushed back to his own rig, doused himself with water and managed to drag the other driver another 20 yards to safety. Literally moments later, the double tanker came crashing down to the ground.

Vasovic did not stay around long at the scene. In fact, he went back to work not long after his heroic save. His company, Hub Group Trucking, nominated him for Goodyear Highway Hero.

 "I went back to work, you know," he said. "I washed my hands and I tried not to think about it. Only after, when people approached me and people saw the (news) video, then I got scared."

Vasovic has been trucking for 11 years, the past four with Hub Group Trucking.

Prior to that, he was in the military in the war-torn former Yugoslavia, where he worked for a Red Cross platoon.

"I grew up in a tough neighborhood," he says. "I had a tough childhood and everything."

Vasovic came to the U.S. in 2003 through the Red Cross, taking a job, fittingly, as a lifeguard.

He is now a member of the prestigious Goodyear Highway Hero family. He joins recent past winners Jason Harte, Mike Schiotis and Tilden Curl.

"Ivan's quick thinking and brave actions saved a fellow truck driver from a life-threatening situation," said Gary Medalis, marketing director, Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems. "He literally put himself in harm's way to save another person's life. Ivan's decision to interject himself into this deadly scenario is a powerful example of the selflessness exhibited by professional truck drivers. He has earned the right to be called a Highway Hero."

Scott Nelson, Highway Hero finalist Tim Horton, and
Karen Nelson meet in person for the first time.
Photo by David Tanner
Goodyear recognized three other finalists at this year's award presentation.

Brian Dunn of Knoxville, Tenn., pried the door from a burning car to rescue a 2-year-old boy. He says all he could think about were his own young children.

OOIDA Member Scott Rosenburg, Isanti, Minn., used a boom on the back of his truck to turn a vehicle back over after it landed upside down in a pond. His actions saved the driver, who would certainly have drowned.

Tim Horton, Sheridan, Ark., witnessed a vehicle crash 35 feet down into a ravine near Tuscaloosa, Ala., and braved the slope and treacherous terrain to help rescue a college graduate student, Tyler Nelson.

The Nelsons show a picture of their son, Tyler,
who was fortunate to have trucker Tim Horton
looking out for him after a crash.
Nelson's parents, Scott and Karen, of the Nashville area, attended MATS as guests of Goodyear. Although they knew one another would be in attendance, the Nelsons had never met Horton in person until the award presentation.

Grateful hugs and tears of joy flowed for these friends for life. Horton says he plans to meet Tyler, now 24, when he passes through Atlanta where Tyler studies.

"This is really amazing," said Karen. "His survival instincts just kicked in."

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