To latest Highway Hero,
little girl is the ‘real hero’
Mar 31, 2008 10:09 AM
To Goodyear’s 25th North American Highway Hero winners, the actual hero is nine-year-old Abby Bern. Despite their life-saving efforts, they insist they’re merely "Abby’s Angels."
Although truck driver Richard Filiczkowski of Zion IL jumped into an icy South Dakota pond April 26, 2007, and saved Abby’s life, he and wife Janet say the little girl is the "real hero. She really is. She was so strong. I couldn’t believe that this little girl could be so strong. She was just amazing."
Abby and her mother, Marty Bern, helped Goodyear officials crown Filiczkowski, now of Bountiful UT, as the 2007 Highway Hero at the Mid-America Trucking Show recently.
Janet Filiczkowski was driving the C.R. England rig along a quiet stretch of Interstate 90 about 100 miles west of Sioux Falls when she saw a car cross four lanes of traffic and careen into a pond. She yelled for her husband, who was resting in the sleeper compartment. Filiczkowski quickly dressed, grabbed his shoes, and ran a quarter-mile to the scene.
"I dove right in because I saw Abby pounding on the car’s back window. My only instinct was to get her out of the car as soon as possible. In situations like that, seconds count," Filiczkowski said.
Also inside the car and submerged in eight feet of water was Abby’s father. Rescuing the Worthington MN girl, then 8, proved to be easier than pulling an unconscious Dr. Jeff Bern, a 42-year-old pediatrician and father of three, from the driver’s seat.
Two other men joined Filiczkowski in the water, but the car doors were stuck. They managed to open the rear hatch, and Filiczkowski carried the girl to Janet, who worked to warm the girl and distract her from the rescue attempts on her father.
Bern was held in his car by a seat belt. One of the men found a pocketknife on shore and used it to cut part of the seat belt; Filiczkowski cut the remainder, but the man’s legs remained lodged under the steering column.
One rescuer freed one of the man’s legs, and Filiczkowski dislodged the other. After 10 minutes, the truck driver finally pulled the father from the car and swam to shore, but it was too late to save his life.
Marty Bern was so thankful for Abby’s rescue that she invited the Filiczkowskis to her husband’s funeral. Richard and Janet considered it an honor and attended the services.
Access www.goodyear.com/truck/news/hero.html for more on Goodyear’s Highway Hero program and to nominate a truck driver for the 26th anniversary of the award.
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