|Darrell Herndon and Clinton Blackburn (Goodyear photo)|
As it turns out, the folks behind Goodyear's Highway Hero award felt the same way, naming Blackburn the 32nd recipient of the prestigious award at a ceremony on Thursday, March 26 at MATS.
Herndon, a Spencer County Sheriff's Deputy, was in attendance for the award and shared a few brief remarks on stage with his friend.
"All I can say is whether he'd won this or not, he's my hero," Herndon said.
Blackburn, an OOIDA member from Winchester, Ky., was driving on the Bluegrass Parkway in Nelson County, Ky., just over a year ago on March 12, 2014, when he found himself in a situation that would change not only his life, but the lives of Herndon and his family.
Herndon was transporting a juvenile prisoner, who escaped from his handcuffs and began strangling Herndon. Blackburn observed the situation from his cab, pulled over, and rushed to help him. During the struggle, the escaping prisoner managed to grab Herndon's service weapon and point it at the two men, but Blackburn continued to fight and eventually got the gun. The two men then subdued the prisoner together.
Since that time, both Blackburn and Herndon say they have gone on to forge a friendship together, spending time deer-hunting and with each others' families.
"We've got to be pretty good friends," Herndon said. "If it hadn't been for him and the Good Lord, I wouldn't be here. That's a fact."
During his acceptance speech, Blackburn said he "didn't expect to win" the award, adding that he'd already received something much more valuable.
"I ended up with Darrell out of the deal," he said. "I call him Brother Darrell, because that's pretty much how it feels for me."
Blackburn was one of three finalists nominated for the award. The other two drivers nominated were David Fredericksen, of Windemere, Fla., and Mack Guffey, of Gainesboro, Tenn. Fredericksen was also one of 19 finalists for TA/Petro's Citizen Driver Award.
Fredericksen was one of several people to assist in the rescue of a woman and her granddaughter following an Aug. 11, 2014, crash in Gulfport, Miss. After witnessing a car crash, he stopped his truck, grabbed his fire extinguisher and ran to the car. Fredericksen repelled the flames enough to reach the car’s passenger side door. By this time, several spectators and his co-driver had joined him. They helped him remove the woman – who had suffered a broken leg – and her year-old grandchild 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.
Guffey was driving near New York City when an SUV passed his truck and slammed into a guard rail, causing the front of the vehicle to burst into flames. Guffey stopped his truck, grabbed his fire extinguisher, and ran over to the SUV to fight the fire. Using his extinguisher, he smashed the SUV’s side window, grabbed the driver and carried him to safety. Fearing that other people were trapped inside the SUV, Guffey ran back to the now flame-engulfed vehicle, only to discover that nobody else was inside. Guffey’s clothes had caught fire during the rescue. He suffered several cuts and burns due to his efforts, but stayed with the vehicle’s driver until help arrived.
The Highway Hero winner receives a special ring, a $5,000 award, and a congratulatory crystal. Each of the other finalists also receives a cash prize and other items.