Friday, March 23, 2012

Highway Heroes: four super cool guys

John Neumeier, Mike Schiotis, John Crozman, Mel Farnell
Founded by Goodyear in 1983, the Highway Hero program honors professional truck drivers for the “often unnoticed rescues and roadside assistance they provide as their jobs take them across the United States and Canada.”

Elsewhere on this blog, you can read about Goodyear Highway Hero Mike Schiotis (a driver for Panther and an OOIDA member) and his extraordinary story. The judges really had a job with the 2011 final four, because the other three truckers are also such courageous individuals.

So how about the other three? They are John Crozman of Black Hawk, SD (also an OOIDA member); Mel Farnell of Shelburne, ON; and John Neumeier of Russia, OH.

John Crozman is driver for Long Haul Trucking in Albertville, MN. While driving down a rest stop access road near Summit, SD, on Feb. 3, 2011, in the middle of a severe ground blizzard, John saw a van parked on the side of the highway. At first, he thought the vehicle was abandoned, but then he saw a light inside. Fighting subzero weather and 50 mph winds, John put on his snowmobiling suit and two ski masks and made his way to the van and tapped on the frozen windshield. He found a couple inside who were trying to keep warm with a candle lit inside a can. They had been trapped in the car for more than four hours.

“They were pretty glad to see me,” says John with a big grin. He led the shivering man and woman to his truck and let them spend the night in his warm sleeper cab. The next day, he made sure they were safe and their car was rescued before continuing along his route.

Mel Farnell of Shelburne, Ontario, is a driver for Tupling Farms Produce Inc., also based in Shelburne. Mel was making a delivery on May 13, 2011 (Mels points out it was Friday the 13th) when a car that was traveling in the opposite direction veered into the path of his truck and slammed into it head-on. The impact caused Mel’s tractor-trailer to jack-knife.

Though shaken, Mel approached the car, which had come to a stop in a ditch and was on fire. He ended up having to smash the driver’s side window with a small fire extinguisher to get the man out. The man’s arm and one leg were broken, but Mel says he knew he had to get him out. The floor mats were now on fire.

“I told him, you gotta help me. You are going to fry if we can’t get you out of this car.”

Somehow, Mel was able to pull the much heavier motorist to safety just minutes before the car exploded.

John Neumeier of Russia, OH, a driver for Bohman Trucking, also based in Russia. That’s pronounced Roo-shee. John was loading his milk delivery truck around 9 p.m. on Nov. 14, 2011, when he looked over at a nearby pond and saw a car mostly submerged. He yelled at some nearby farm workers to no avail. Then John saw the flicker of a cellphone light. Knowing someone was alive inside that sinking car, he grabbed a large wrench.

“I didn’t even think. I put my cellphone and stuff on the seat of the truck. The last thing I thought about was being scared.”

Into the pond he went, and beat on the driver’s side window until it broke. Neumeier pulled the driver, a 65-year-old man, out by his feet and hauled him to shore. The man was taken away by ambulance in bad shape.

John’s son, John Paul, drove up as all this was happening (he delivers milk, too) and said, “Pop! You are all wet, what happened?”

John answered his astounded (and proud) son – “I guess I went swimming …”

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