Trucker saves toddler from burning car on Will Rogers Turnpike

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Monday, November 18, 2013

Brian Dunn said he’s seen his share of wrecks on the road, but nothing like the crash he saw last Thursday on the Will Rogers Turnpike in Claremore, Okla.

Dunn, a truck driver for Paschall Truck Lines, was westbound on the turnpike at about 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 14, when he watched a late-model Chevrolet Impala come crashing down through a guard rail on County Road 4220 and land on its roof in the middle of the road.

“I’ve seen accidents and came up on them later and tried to help, but I’ve never had one right in front of me, that close,” he said in a phone interview Monday with "Land Line Now."

“It was just instincts. It still touches me and bothers me a little bit. … Everything was in slow motion. It seemed like everything was just in slow-frame.”

Dunn said he saw the vehicle go airborne before crashing back to the turnpike about 50 yards in front of his cab. He said he pulled over quickly and ran to the car to see if he could help.

“I was just trying to holler to get any voices or anybody to respond and let me know what the scenario was,” he said. “I didn’t hear nothing.”

At that point, the car’s engine caught fire, so Dunn started to return to his truck for a fire extinguisher, when he heard a little boy start crying for help.

The boy, who has been identified as 2-year-old Caleb Hall, was strapped in a car seat in the back of the burning vehicle.

“I just went for the little boy,” Dunn said. “I went to get him out.”

Extracting the child proved difficult, because of the flames and the sheer devastation done to the vehicle by the crash.

“The car was just flat,” he said. “If you can picture one without a roof, it was smooshed. … I was just pulling on the (rear) door, and it finally gave away.”

Dunn said he unbuckled the boy and slid him out to safety.

“I ended up just holding him for about 10 or 15 seconds real close, because I’ve got a 1-year-old son myself,” he said.

Dunn said he took the boy to a couple in another car that had stopped to assist, before going back to his own rig for a fire extinguisher. He said he noticed a woman in the front seat of the vehicle, and he and several others who had stopped began trying to extract the driver.

“There were about four or five of us with crowbars trying to open the door to get to the female, but she was dead on impact according to the EMTs,” he said.

The woman was Michelle Hall, Caleb’s mother. She did not survive the crash. A spokesperson with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol was not available Monday to answer questions about the cause of the crash.

Dunn said he has been in contact with the boy’s family “every night since the crash.”

“That’s a great blessing to me to be able to watch him grow up and still be a part of that,” he said. “Anybody can do it. It don’t take a truck driver, it don’t take a man. Anybody can stop and make a difference in any situation. All they have to do is try.”

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

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