Walmart driver helps rescue teen driver from burning SUV

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Friday, October 04, 2013

Truck driver Toby Vigil says he was just doing what any truck driver would have done.

Vigil, 62, who hauls dry van trailers for a Walmart distribution center out of Loveland, Colo., was en route to his drop site in Rapid City, S.D., on Sept. 30, when he noticed what appeared to be a dump truck with the bed elevated.

That “dump truck” turned out to be an SUV in mid-flip, as it rolled end over end down the embankment. The driver, a 16-year-old boy, was still trapped inside.

“I saw a situation where help was needed, and I grabbed my fire extinguisher and tried to help,” Vigil said in an interview with “Land Line Now” on Sirius XM. “The first visual I got was of the SUV flipping. It was on fire when it was flipping. That’s why I immediately grabbed my fire extinguisher.”

Just moments before, at around 3:40 p.m., the SUV had been involved in a three-vehicle crash that caused several injuries on Elk Vale Road, just south of Highway 44 in Rapid City, according to a release from the Rapid City Police Department.

A 2013 Kia Rio, driven by another 16-year-old male, was heading north on Elk Vale in the right lane. The driver changed over to the left lane, striking a 2006 Ford Expedition that was also traveling north in the left lane. The impact pushed the Expedition across the median into the southbound lanes, where it was struck head-on by a southbound 2007 Ford Edge. Immediately after, the Edge was struck by a 2003 Dodge Neon. The Expedition was pushed off the road and rolled down a hill, catching fire.

While other passersby stopped to assist the occupants of the other two vehicles, Vigil and a group of about 10 others made their way down the embankment to try to put out the fire that was consuming the Expedition.

With the SUV lying on the driver’s side door, Vigil said the undercarriage was already engulfed in flames.

“It was burning too hot,” he said. “We had no effect on it with our fire extinguishers.”

The sunroof of the SUV had become dislodged in the crash, allowing Vigil and several others reach in there to pull the boy from burning wreckage.

“The driver was incoherent, in severe pain,” he said. “I halfway crawled in. All I could see was the driver, his head and arms. His legs were wedged, trapped between console and dash. It was clear that they were severely broken.”

It took three people to pull the boy’s broken body from the twisted metal. Vigil said once the victim was free, the whole group sprinted away from the flames and back to the highway, carrying the boy between them.

“We’d got maybe 20 to 30 feet away when the vehicle started blowing up,” he said. “(EMTs) would not have gotten there in time. It would have blown up.”

When emergency workers arrived, they were able to extract the drivers of the Neon and the Edge from their vehicles. All three were transported to an area hospital with significant injuries. According to the Rapid City Police Department, criminal charges are pending against the driver of the Kia.

Vigil downplayed his role in the rescue, saying he was “just a small part” of the effort to assist all three injured parties.

“I don’t consider myself having done anything out of the ordinary,” he said. “It’s something I assume every truck driver would do. And I believe that every Walmart driver would do the same thing. I was glad I was able to be there and help out, but I was a small part of an overall bigger thing. I’m glad the young man survived; I’m glad everybody else survived. And the fact that he did survive and that I played a small part in that, yeah, it makes a person feel good.”

Land Line Now news anchor Reed Black contributed to this report.

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