Heroic trucker rescues man from burning dump truck

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | Friday, August 05, 2016

Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Kim Montes has been in law enforcement for two decades. In that time, she has witnessed many people go out of their way to help a crash victim.

However, Montes said the efforts made by a truck driver to save another trucker’s life on Thursday morning in Apopka, Fla., were truly heroic.

(Photo courtesy of the Florida Highway Patrol)

A 1996 semi-truck driven by Michael Bridges was destroyed after an accident caused it to become engulfed in flames on Thursday morning in Apopka, Fla.

Jason Williams, a 31 year-old truck driver for Clowney Truck-N-Tractor in Sanford, Fla., rescued Michael Bridges from a burning dump truck after an accident on State Road 429. As of Friday morning, Bridges was at a hospital in critical but stable condition.

“Every day, I see accidents out there on the highway,” Williams said. “I was thinking that if it were me, I’d want someone to come over and help me out. I wouldn’t want to burn alive in my truck.”

Bridges, a 61-year-old truck driver from Orlando, Fla., was traveling northbound on 429 when his dump truck blew a tire. According to the report from the Florida Highway Patrol, Bridges then lost control of the vehicle and the dump truck swerved through the center grass median and into the southbound lanes before clipping a 2014 Honda. The dump truck continued off onto the west shoulder, overturned and then caught fire.

Williams, who had been traveling southbound, saw the whole thing.

“Mr. Williams jumped out of his truck, crossed all the lanes of traffic by himself and went down to try and help the victim,” Montes said. “He didn’t know if the victim was alive or not.”

When Williams arrived at the vehicle, he eventually heard Bridges scream for help. Williams climbed up to the driver’s seat and attempted to pull Bridges out by his arms. The fire was already so hot, however, that Williams lost his grip as the skin began to slide down to Bridges’ wrists.

Williams regrouped and then gave Bridges a bear hug to pull him out. They both landed in the grass. Williams suffered slight burns to his face and wrist. The dump truck eventually burned to the ground.

“He gave me a big hug and thanked me,” Williams said. “Then another citizen came, and we helped him as we waited for the ambulance to come.”

Williams said he received a call from Bridges’ wife and daughter on Thursday night, thanking him for his actions. Bridges is set to have several surgeries for his burns, Williams said the family members told him.

While Williams has downplayed his actions, Montes said the truck driver is definitely worthy of appreciation. The Florida Highway Patrol plans to nominate Williams for a Carnegie Medal and is requesting that he be recognized by the governor.

“Had Mr. Williams not gone inside that truck, Mr. Bridges couldn’t have gotten out and he would have burned alive,” Montes said. “He received some serious burns. He’s still in critical but stable condition at the hospital, but he’s alive today because of Mr. Williams.

“This guy is truly a hero.”

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