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MATS: Oregon driver honoured for heroics

Posted: August 1, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Despite having an out of control vehicle strike his rig, Junichi Shimizu kept his composure and helped save the lives of three people.

Shimizu’s actions earned the Oregon trucker the 27th annual Goodyear North America Highway Hero award, which he accepted along with a $10,000 U.S. Savings Bond during the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.

In February 2009, Shimizu, a driver for Chipman Relocations, was driving westbound on Highway 12 near Fairfield, Calif., and witnessed a vehicle cross the centerline of the road and strike an automobile in front of his truck.

The auto spun into the ditch, and the other vehicle, then hit his tractor twice before bursting into flames.

Upon coming to a stop, Shimizu called for assistance and then headed to the vehicle that was in flames. Unable to open the driver’s side door due to the damage, he told the driver to protect his face and he punched out the glass in order to pull the driver free of the car. Gaining help from another motorist, he was able to free the driver’s foot, which was wedged under the dashboard, then carry the driver to safety.

Junichi Shimizu

Running to the other car, he quickly assessed that the driver was deceased, but there were two injured passengers inside. The passengers were removed, and Shimizu retrieved his fire extinguisher to keep the blaze under control until the local fire department arrived.

Shimizu, of Gladstone, Ore., also has been recognized by the California Highway Patrol with a certificate of commendation for his role in the lifesaving effort associated with the 2009 crash.

“In this terrible accident, one driver perished, and our thoughts and prayers go out to this family,” said Joseph Copeland, Goodyear’s vice president of commercial tire systems.

“But we also honor the quick actions and selflessness of Junichi Shimizu. Although his own rig was struck in this accident, he remained calm and immediately pulled his vehicle to a stop and called for help. He then reacted quickly and put himself in harm’s way, in order to help rescue strangers who were in peril. Because of that decision, three lives were saved. For this, Junichi has earned the right to be called a hero.”

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.

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