Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Strong-armed citizen helps dump truck driver escape fiery wreck

We’re all about celebrating “highway heroes,” and this story out of Cheektowaga, N.Y., certainly qualifies.

Dump truck driver Larry Coulter was hauling a load of stone westbound on Interstate 90 in western New York on Monday, March 16, when he suffered a blowout on one of his tires. The loss of a tire forced his truck into a guardrail, causing the whole thing to overturn and catch fire.

WIVB 4 News had cellphone video footage of the blaze, along with an interview with Coulter posted on Tuesday. The video shows the dump truck fully engulfed in flames as thick, black clouds of smoke pour across the interstate.

With the truck on its side, Coulter told the news agency that he couldn’t escape via the passenger door, and the encroaching flames made it impossible for him to open the driver’s side door and climb out.

“The tires were bursting all around me,” Coulter said in WIVB’s report. “I just kept thinking it was the end.”

And it might well have been, were it not for the actions of Ed Brunner, a passerby who stopped and began hurling large stones from the truck’s cargo at the windshield, attempting to break Coulter free.

The heavy stones opened a crack in the windshield that Coulter said he was able to kick out and then make an escape from the cab with Brunner’s assistance.

Rescue workers arrived at the crash site, but Brunner reportedly had already left. Coulter was taken to the Erie County Medical Center where he was treated for smoke inhalation and released.

For his part, Brunner told the news station that he did it “because I saw another man who needed my help.”

“God put me there for a reason,” he said. “Thankfully I was able to break the window.”

Coulter told the news station that Brunner is his “guardian angel.”

“I was very, very, very, lucky,” he said in the report. “If he wouldn’t have been able to break that glass, I would have died. He saved my life today. I owe him eternal gratitude.”