When the fireball shot out of the Lincoln Town Car just in front of them, truckers David Fredericksen and Walter Letterman said they didn’t think anybody in the car could survive.
“The fire was so bad,” Letterman said in a phone interview with Land Line on Thursday.
The fire started when the Town Car attempted to merge onto the westbound lane of Interstate 10 near mile marker 34 in Gulfport, Miss., on Monday, Aug. 11. The driver, Carolyn Taylor, and her 1-year-old granddaughter were in the Town Car when it collided with a tractor-trailer driven by Scott Swanstrom, striking the fuel tank and igniting a blazing inferno.
Fredericksen and Letterman were in their own tanker truck not far behind the two vehicles. The dashcam in their rig captured the explosion. It also captured the duo’s heroic rescue of Taylor and her grandchild.
Footage from the dashcam was posted to YouTube by Fredericksen’s son, where it soon went viral.
“You know, this happens every day,” Fredericksen told Land Line. “Truck drivers get out and do this every day. It just so happens I had a camera, and I had a son that posted it on YouTube saying ‘my dad is a hero.’”
Fredericksen, who was driving, pulled the rig to a stop not far from where Taylor’s car burned. The men said at first they thought nobody could have survived the crash. Fredericksen said he grabbed the fire extinguisher from the cab and ran over to where the vehicle was burning.
“As I was walking up there, I was praying. Please God, make them be safe,” Fredericksen said. “I don’t want to have to deal with a dead body or have to put a tourniquet on.”
Letterman said he was trying to get his shoes on when he looked up and saw a head in the back seat of the car. That’s when he ran to join his partner.
“(Taylor) was laying down trying to kick the door open with her good foot,” Letterman said. “David looked in the back seat. Her little granddaughter was in the back seat. There was so much smoke you could barely see.”
Fredericksen grabbed the child from the back seat and handed her to his partner, who carried her away from the flames.
“She just latched around my neck,” Letterman said. “I thought she was going to choke me to death she was so scared. I kept patting her on the back telling her she was going to be all right.
“I know if it was my grandson, I’d want someone to stop and help them too,” he said. “We didn’t think about it, we just did it. … It was all in God’s hands, and he just had us there at the right time.”
Like his partner, Fredericksen said he credits his faith for the positive outcome, and for being in the right place at the right time.
“I have two co-drivers,” he said. “I’ve got Walter Letterman and my savior Jesus. ... God will use us when he needs us.”
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