LOUISVILLE, KY. The truck driver and the law enforcement officer he saved from being strangled by a prisoner took center stage during a Thursday ceremony at the Mid-America Trucking Show. And there was hardly a dry eye in the room as they recounted the event and told how they’ve become friends and “brothers” since.
The occasion was the 32nd Goodyear Highway Hero award, and this year’s honoree was Clinton Blackburn of Morehead, KY.
Blackburn was driving near Elizabethtown, KY, last year when he observed a sheriff’s cruiser lurch toward the highway median and abruptly stop. He pulled up to investigate and noticed that the car’s driver side door was open. Inside, the driver, Spencer County jailer Darrell Herndon, was being strangled from behind by a prisoner, who was leaning over the back seat.
Blackburn ran to the car, reached into the vehicle through its driver side door, and began struggling with the prisoner in an effort to free Herndon, who was immobilized by his seat belt. During the melee, the prisoner pulled Herndon’s gun from its holster. Blackburn immediately grabbed the barrel of the gun and pointed it toward the car’s dashboard.
Meanwhile, Herndon released his seat belt and rolled out of the car. The prisoner then tried to point the gun at Blackburn, who turned the weapon around and aimed it at the prisoner.
Pointing the gun at the prisoner, Blackburn backed away from the car. Realizing that the cruiser’s keys were still in the ignition, the prisoner tried to start the car and drive away. Working together, Blackburn and Herndon subdued him.
“All I can say is, whether he’d won this or not, he’s my hero,” Herndon said.
For his part, Blackburn said that truckers “don’t get a lot of spotlight.”
“Thank the good Lord for putting me where he put me at,” Blackburn said.
As the winner, Blackburn receives a special Highway Hero ring, a $5,000 prize and other items.
“Clinton’s brave, decisive actions ensured that Darrell would be home with his family that night,” said Gary Medalis, marketing director, Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems. “Clinton acted without regard for his own safety, literally putting himself in harm’s way to save another person. His decision to get involved is a powerful example of the selflessness and courage exhibited by professional truck drivers. He has earned the right to be called a Goodyear Highway Hero.”
Blackburn and two other truck drivers were selected as finalists for the 32nd Goodyear Highway Hero Award. The other finalists were:
David Fredericksen, a driver from Windermere, FL. Fredericksen was driving down an interstate near Gulfport, Miss., when he saw a car crash into another truck and catch fire. He grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran to the car. Fredericksen repelled the fire enough to reach the car’s passenger side door. By this time, several bystanders had joined him. They helped him remove the passengers, including a woman and a one-year-old child, from the blazing car. By the time firefighters reached the scene, the vehicle’s passenger area was completely engulfed in flames. The incident was captured by Fredericksen’s dashboard camera.
Mack Guffey, a driver from Gainesboro, TN. Guffey was driving near New York City when an SUV passed his truck and slammed into the guard rail. The SUV flipped over and landed on its side. The front of the vehicle burst into flames. Guffey stopped his truck, grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran over to the SUV. While fighting the fire, he tried to reach into the vehicle through its broken windshield to grab its severely injured, semi-conscious driver. Using his extinguisher, he then smashed the SUV’s side window, grabbed the driver and carried him to safety. Guffey, whose clothes had caught fire during the rescue and suffered several cuts and burns due to his efforts, stayed with the vehicle’s driver until help arrived.
“Goodyear is proud to be the company that recognizes truck drivers for their heroism,” said Medalis. “Each of our Highway Hero Award finalists is a hero in his own right.”