The truck driver from Utica, N.Y., was driving through a construction zone in Jacksonville, Fla., when a car drove past him at a high rate of speed, nearly hitting his truck. Shortly after, the car crashed into a construction barrier and began to emit smoke.
Kaczor ran to the car as it became engulfed in flames. He first attempted to extinguish the fire, but as it intensified he forced the driver's side door open, pulled the injured driver out of the vehicle, and dragged him to safety.
For his bravery, Kaczor received the 33rd annual Goodyear Highway Hero Award during a ceremony Thursday at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. Kaczor received $5,000 cash, a ring and a trophy. Established in 1983, the Highway Hero Award honors professional truck drivers who put themselves in harm's way to help others.
"I couldn't believe that I was nominated," Kaczor said. "I was just doing my job."
Kaczor said his main focus was getting the injured man out of the burning car as quickly as possible.
"I had to pry open the driver's side door," he said. "I didn't know if he was wearing a seat belt or not. I just pulled him out."
Sadly, Kaczor later learned that the driver died about a week after the accident.
Kaczor was joined at the ceremony by fellow finalists Mark Cavanagh and Dorian Cole.
Cavanagh, a trucker from Hillsville, Va., was driving through Pennsylvania when he saw another tractor-trailer drive off the road and roll down a hill. The truck's driver was ejected from the rig and was hanging from its mirror bracket by a belt. Cavanagh stopped his truck and made his way down the hill. Cavanagh cut the driver's belt, pulled him from the truck, and helped him back to the road.
Cole, a trucker from Los Angeles, was driving through the Sylmar section of Los Angeles when he witnessed a Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle officer collide with another motorcyclist. The impact from the collision caused the officer to hit a concrete divider. To protect the injured officer from oncoming traffic, Cole positioned his tanker truck across several highway lanes.
Cavanagh and Cole also received trophies and a cash award.