Trucker pulls unconscious motorist from wreckage

| 4/17/2007

Police in a Cleveland suburb say a trucker pulled another driver out of his four-wheeler last weekend before the man’s wrecked pickup burst into flames.

According to Lt. Chris Viland, the pickup driver lost control and ran into a Carquest automotive parts store and was knocked unconscious at about 2 a.m. on Saturday, April 14 in Solon, OH.

John Krupka, 50, has driven a parts delivery truck for Carquest for four years, and was parked at the Solon Carquest – just one of his daily nine stops at stores in the area – when he witnessed the accident.

Krupka told Land Line he was about to close up the back of his truck when he saw headlights swerving and heard a boom that seemed right outside his truck. The boom was followed by what Krupka said sounded like a rocket whistling.

Krupka looked out his driver’s side window and saw a pickup truck crushed into the side of the retail store, with the gas main lit up “like a blow torch” in the truck’s engine compartment. He ran to the truck and saw a middle-aged man unconscious, his face buried in his pickup’s airbag.

“By the time I got to him the fire was up on the dashboard of his truck,” Krupka said. “The only thing I could think of was he was in trouble and to help him out.”

Krupka said he reached into the truck and tried pulling the man out the door, but the large man was difficult to move. As Krupka got his head near the window, the man woke up enough to help Krupka move him from the fire, which by then had started devouring the pickup and was overtaking the parts store.

Krupka dialed 9-1-1 on his cell phone, and firefighters arrived minutes later. The firefighters asked Krupka to move his 32-foot International box truck because of its proximity to the building fire.

“They said, ‘If your tanks go up, we’re not going to be able to control it any better,’ ” Krupka said. “I drove it through the flames.”

According to local media reports, the fire destroyed the store’s inventory, estimated at $600,000. Authorities had to spend more than four hours digging up a street to shut off the gas line to the building.

Area resident Jill Sommer witnessed the wreck and rescue from her nearby home, and told a local television station she didn’t believe she could have saved the pickup driver.

Krupka said he’s been married for 26 years and is raising three children at home in Brunswick, OH. The day’s events didn’t hit him until he got home later that morning.

“I started shaking a little bit,” he said.

Krupka said he continues to receive congratulatory handshakes from supervisors at work and his kids keep giving him a hard time about being a hero.

“I wish someone would do something like that for me if something ever happened to me and my family,” he said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer